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In our world, we are bombarded by images, messages and agendas that instrumentalize people. Human dignity is under direct attack from all sides. In this week in which we have a profound gospel message on the sacredness and the dignity of the human person, we understand a bit better where our value and worth come from.
The Church has some beautiful teaching on the dignity of the human person that we can appreciate and bring into our lives:
- Pope John Paul II’s was constantly touching on the theme of human dignity: Human persons are willed by God; they are imprinted with God’s image. Their dignity does not come from the work they do, but from the persons they are. (Centesimus annus, no. 11)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a whole section on the dignity of the human person: “Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.” It is in Christ, “the image of the invisible God,” that man has been created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God. (CCC 1701).
- Pope Benedict XVI spoke on where our human dignity comes from in his message for the World Day of Peace January 1, 2007: Sacred Scripture affirms that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others. At the same time, each person is called, by grace, to a covenant with the Creator, called to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his place(1). From this supernatural perspective, one can understand the task entrusted to human beings to mature in the ability to love and to contribute to the progress of the world, renewing it in justice and in peace.
- In his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis talks about the challenges of today’s world in regard to consumerism: Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. (The Joy of the Gospel Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
How can we uphold the dignity of the human person? In our demeanor towards other, in our words and in our actions, we are called to offer each person the respect and the dignity that is given to us by God.
Yours in Christ,
Fr John Gannon
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MERCY MISSION 2017 – a slideshow