GILBERT: Respect life is more than birth and death; also in between

October 12, 2021

October is set aside for us to fully focus on respecting life and exactly what that means. Many times we think of respect life as an anti-abortion movement or an against capital punishment movement. Yes, both of those are part of respecting life, but it is way more than that.
Our focus should be on life from conception to natural death and everything in between. While October is Respect Life month, this year is also the year of St. Joseph as designated by Pope Francis. Joseph was a model husband and father who showed how valuable life is. He protected the life of Mary and the life of Jesus. He was a provider and a protector. Jesus was born into a state of vulnerability, and Joseph was there to protect His life from those who were seeking to kill Him.
He could have rejected God’s call and said it’s not his problem, but instead, he accepted the mission to raise the Young Messiah. Mary, too, accepted that call from God. She could have said no, but she was willing to do whatever the Father asked of her.
Like Joseph and Mary, we are all called to protect the lives of others and to defend them against evil and destruction. We are called to help our fellow sisters and brothers whom we live among.
We are not a solitary people but part of a community and, most importantly, part of the Body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, St. Paul tells us that there is “one body with many parts and no part is any more important than the other. And because of that, each part takes care of one another.”
That is our mission to be there for one another as all our lives are important. St. Paul goes on to say that “if one part of the body is hurting, then all parts are hurting.” When we see someone suffering, we cannot turn our heads and say it’s not our problem because if one is suffering, we all are suffering.
Just in the practical matter, we see it in our communities where crime has risen because people are hurting, and they act out in ways that are not helpful to the community.
As a pastoral minister with Special Youth Services in the Archdiocese, I see every day the lives of young people that are hurting. Our ministry serves young kids who are “at-risk” and mostly those who are detained in the juvenile justice system. Yes, they are there because they engaged in behaviors that hurt others, but when you see them and talk to them, you realize they are hurting themselves.
Many of them are hurt because of poverty, lack of good parenting, drugs, victims of crime, and more. When they become hurt, many times they don’t know how to heal, so they act out against others.
So through our ministry, we have the blessing to reach out to them and walk with them as they begin their healing journey.
But it should be more than that when we talk about respecting life; we all have a call to help those who are hurting and help them to heal before they hurt others. We should all take the time and reflect on how we can strengthen the lives of others, young and old, and make our communities heal and be a stronger body of Christ. Like St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother, we must accept our call to respect the lives of all that we encounter. Each one of us can make a difference. 

Deacon Dan Gilbert is a pastoral minister with Special Youth Services.