Taking as his theme the statement of Pope Benedict XVI, that “every child brings us God's smile,” Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis wrote on Wednesday that the defense of all members of humanity, from conception to natural death, is ultimately rooted in joy and gratitude for God's gift of life.
God, the archbishop taught, is “not cold or uncaring,” but “loving and joyful,” creating the universe and every human person for the sake of love. Archbishop Carlson expressed his thoughts in the St. Louis Review, in anticipation of this year's Respect Life Sunday on October 3.
“At just 11 weeks in the womb,” he observed, “an unborn child smiles. Skeptics say this is simply an involuntary contraction of face muscles. People of faith know better. We believe that this unborn child has already begun his or her lifelong journey as a child of God.”
“Because we are confident that every child brings us God's smile, we believe that the smiling child in his or her mother's womb is telling us something important.”
The same goodness of God, the archbishop pointed out, could be seen throughout nature. “Out of God's goodness comes all of creation - with its natural wonders, its breathtaking loveliness, and its marvelous diversity,” he enthused. “Minerals, plants, animals and human beings all come into existence because of the goodness of God.”
“Our human sinfulness,” the archbishop taught, causes us to “turn the smile (God) gave us into a frown or a scowl or even bitter tears. But that is not the way God made us.” Rather, he explained, we are meant to love and protect one another, understanding that “life is a precious gift to be treasured and nurtured and shared.”
Life's beginning and end, he said, both illustrate this truth vividly. “The innocence of the unborn child, and the vulnerability of those who are unable to care for themselves because of sickness or old age, remind us that we are responsible for supporting and caring for each other.”
The prelate warned that those who treat persons as an inconvenience or burden, are in reality only dehumanizing themselves.
“How we care for an unexpected child, a parent suffering from cognitive impairment or an infant with a disability does not reflect the degree of their humanity, but our own,” he stated. “We are as dependent on them as they are on us.”
“Every child, at every age of development, brings us God's smile and invites us to smile in return,” he continued, “to be grateful and loving and generous in sharing God's wonderful gift of life with others.”
Evoking Christ's central precept to “love one another as I have loved you,” Archbishop Carlson frankly described both the rigor and the beauty of a true respect for life. “There are be no compromise with the standard Jesus set and continually calls us to,” he affirmed. “The measure of love is to love without measure!”