By Fr. Frank Pavone
On Christmas of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. preached the following words: “The next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God…Man…is more than…whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke … Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such…And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people, we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won’t kill anybody.”
Christmas is a marvelous celebration. I love the festivity and decorations, the music and the meals. Christmas celebrates the greatest gift that we receive, Jesus Christ, and should therefore be a season of great festivity.
But in receiving such a tremendous gift, we receive a correspondingly great obligation, namely, the duty to welcome. Christ comes, but he does not come alone. He brings his love, but in doing so, he brings us the burden of loving all whom he loves. Yet his yoke is easy, his burden light, for he gives us also the power to love all whom he loves.
Christmas, therefore, takes away the option of excluding people from our love. God has a face now, and in that face we understand the dignity of all who share human nature, including our brothers and sisters in the womb.
We also understand that all who share that human nature belong to the One who takes that nature upon himself at Christmas. This Feast makes it clear that no human being can own another, or oppress another. Now, one of our brothers in the human family is God. To claim to be able to own or oppress anyone who shares a human nature is, therefore, to claim to be able to own and oppress God himself.
Vatican II taught, “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being” (GS, 22). Hence The Gospel of Life states, “It is precisely in the “flesh” of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ” (EV #104) and again, life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself (EV #9).
Fr. Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life.