Today we celebrate Mass while continuing our prayers for the respect of human dignity. We have to pray for the grace of God to help us continue to recognize the dignity of every human life because we are constantly challenged to do so. We can forget that there are still more than fifteen abortions per hundred pregnancies in the United States which results in well over 500,000 deaths per year – still more lethal than the Corona virus where the death toll sits at about 425,000 total in the US. We can forget that there are still more than nine million people who die of starvation in the world every year because virtually no one dies of starvation in the United States. We can forget these things because we don’t see them happening or we are not aware of them. We need God’s grace to help us see what is invisible – the most important things in life are invisible.
Today’s first reading tells us something important about human dignity: that God Himself values and has given us that dignity. We can lose our dignity or not be given our dignity. We lose our dignity when we fail or when we sin. We can be considered by others without dignity if they don’t see us as a child of God. An almost essential part of our life as Christians is being restored to dignity and restoring the dignity of others. In fact, that’s what makes God’s mercy so much better than mere pity. God doesn’t just pity us because we are weak and unwise, He has mercy on us. St. John Paul II wrote in Dives Misericordiae about God’s mercy that what God does when He has mercy on us is more than just forgive our sins – He restores our dignity. When God calls us to imitate His mercy, He is calling us to work towards restoring the dignity of others.
I’ll close with a final thought about this restoring of dignity we have to be very attentive to today. We live in a country of divisive disagreement. We give ourselves permission regularly to insult, belittle, and denigrate people who don’t thing the same way we do. This is wrong and against human dignity. Just because someone thinks or acts differently doesn’t make them stupid or less human. We need to take this a step further as Christians though: when someone has done something wrong, we not only need to forgive them, we also need to return their dignity. As a priest, I hear lots of people’s confessions and sins – I try to forget what I hear and I do for the most part, but most of all it opens an opportunity for me to treat everyone as a child of God, and to show them dignity and love no matter what. I know that God forgives anyone who asks him for forgiveness, and the reading today reminds us that he “forgets” those wrongdoings: that means He restores their dignity as His sons and daughters. Let us hear the call to honor the God given dignity of those who disagree with us – let us choose to see them as sons and daughters of the same God, remembering that we are in the Holy Presence of God and forgetting whatever taints their dignity in our eyes.