On Recovering Our Dignity


Life is always a good.
This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience,
and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so.
Why is life a good?
Evangelium Vitae, 34


WHAT happens to people’s minds when their culture — a culture of death — informs them that human life is not only disposable but apparently an existential evil to the planet? What happens to the psyche of children and young adults who are repeatedly told that they are just a random by-product of evolution, that their existence is “overpopulating” the earth, that their “carbon footprint” is ruining the planet? What happens to seniors or the ill when they are told that their health issues are costing the “system” too much? What happens to youth who are encouraged to reject their biological sex? What happens to one’s self-image when their worth is defined, not by their inherent dignity but by their productivity? 

If what Pope St. John Paul II said is true, that we are living the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation (see The Labor Pains: Depopulation?) — then I believe St. Paul provides the answers as to what happens to people who have been so dehumanized:

Understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. (2 Tim 3:1-5)

People seem so sad to me these days. So few carry themselves with a “spark.” It’s as if the light of God has gone out in many souls (see The Smoldering Candle).

…in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel. —Letter of His Holiness POPE BENEDICT XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 12, 2009

And this should be no surprise, for as the culture of death spreads its devaluing message to the ends of the earth, so too, are people’s sense of worth and purpose diminished.

…because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. (Matt 24:12)

However, it is precisely in this darkness that we followers of Jesus are called to shine like stars… [1]Phil 2:14-16


Recovering Our Dignity

After laying out a troubling prophetic picture of the ultimate trajectory of the “culture of death”, Pope St. John Paul II also gave an antidote. He begins by asking the question: Why is life a good?

This question is found everywhere in the Bible, and from the very first pages it receives a powerful and amazing answer. The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7, 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 103:14; 104:29), is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gen 1:26-27; Ps 8:6). This is what Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wanted to emphasize in his celebrated definition: “Man, living man, is the glory of God”. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 34

Let these words seep into the core of your being. You are not an “equal” with slugs and monkeys; you are not a byproduct of evolution; you are not a blight upon the face of the earth… you are the masterplan and pinnacle of God’s creation, “the summit of God’s creative activity, as its crown,” said the late Saint.[2]Evangelium Vitae, n. 34 Look up, dear soul, look into the mirror and behold the truth that what God has created is “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

To be certain, sin has disfigured all of us to one degree or another. Old age, wrinkles, and gray hair are but reminders that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”[3]1 Cor 15:26 But our inherent value and dignity never age! Moreover, some may have inherited defective genes or been poisoned in the womb through external forces, or maimed through an accident. Even the “seven deadly sins” that we have entertained (eg. lust, gluttony, sloth, etc.) have disfigured our bodies. 

But being created in the “image of God” goes far beyond our temples:

The biblical author sees as part of this image not only man’s dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (Sir 17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuch as man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Dt 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is “capable of knowing and loving his Creator”.Evangelium Vitae, 34


Being Loved Again

If the love of many has grown cold in the world, it is the role of Christians to restore that warmth in our communities. The disastrous and immoral lockdowns of COVID-19 did systemic damage to human relationships. Many have not yet recovered and live in fear; divisions have only been broadened through social media and bitter online exchanges that have blown up families to this day.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is looking to you and I to heal these breaches, to be a flame of love amidst the coals of our culture. Acknowledge another’s presence, greet them with a smile, look them in the eye, “listen another’s soul into existence,” as Servant of God Catherine Doherty put it. The very first step of proclaiming the Gospel is the same one Jesus took: He was simply present to those around Him (for some thirty years) before He began the proclamation of the Gospel. 

In this culture of death, which has turned us into strangers and even enemies, we may be tempted to become bitter ourselves. We have to resist that temptation to cynicism and choose the path of love and forgiveness. And this is no ordinary “Way.” It is a divine spark that has the potential to set another soul ablaze.

A stranger is no longer a stranger for the person who must become a neighbour to someone in need, to the point of accepting responsibility for his life, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows so clearly (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Even an enemy ceases to be an enemy for the person who is obliged to love him (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-35), to “do good” to him (cf. Lk 6:27, 33, 35) and to respond to his immediate needs promptly and with no expectation of repayment (cf. Lk 6:34-35). The height of this love is to pray for one’s enemy. By so doing we achieve harmony with the providential love of God: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45; cf. Lk 6:28, 35). —Evangelium Vitae, n. 34

We have to push ourselves to overcome our personal fear of rejection and persecution, fears often borne in our own woundedness (that may still need healing — see Healing Retreat.)

What should give us courage though, is to recognize, whether they admit it or not, that every person is longing to encounter God in a personal way… to feel His breath upon them as Adam first felt in the Garden.

The LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)

The divine origin of this spirit of life explains the perennial dissatisfaction which man feels throughout his days on earth. Because he is made by God and bears within himself an indelible imprint of God, man is naturally drawn to God. When he heeds the deepest yearnings of the heart, every man must make his own the words of truth expressed by Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”Evangelium Vitae, n. 35

Be that breath, child of God. Be the warmth of a simple smile, an embrace, an act of kindness and generosity, including the act of forgiveness. Let us look others in the eyes today and let them feel the dignity that is theirs for simply being created in the image of God. This reality should revolutionize our conversations, our reactions, our responses to the other. This is really the counter-revolution that our world so desperately needs to transform it again into a place of truth, beauty, and goodness — into a “culture of life.”

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished… A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy, and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age… —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily, World Youth Day, Sydney, Australia, July 20th, 2008

Let us be those prophets!



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1 Phil 2:14-16
2 Evangelium Vitae, n. 34
3 1 Cor 15:26