Cryopreserved Embryos: In Search of a Moral Solution to an Absurd Fate

Below is a copy of my Masters Thesis, which explored the question of a moral solution to cryopreserved embryos. This thesis was submitted to the Faculty of Kenrick School of Theology in partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Arts in Theology and defended on December 9th, 2014 before Fr. James Knapp, SJ. S.T.D. and Dr. Shawn McCauley Welch, PhD. Both readers accepted the thesis and both gave the thesis A grades.

Cryopreserved Embryos-In Search of a Moral Solution to an Absurd Fate

Advent By Candlelight Reflection on Joy

This was an Advent By Candlelight Reflection given at St. Norbert Parish in Florissant, MO. The reading for the Prayer Service was John 15:11-17.

     This past fall, the day before school started, I had speaking engagement in New York. I flew out of Lambert at 5:00 am, arrived in New York, was driven to the school, gave 2, 1 hour long presentations in 3 hours, and was back at LaGuardia airport sitting in the Delta lounge waiting by 2:30 for my 7 o’clock flight back to St. Louis. Needless to say I was not in the most joyful of spirits, so I intentionally tried to hide in a corner with my computer in the hopes that no one would talk to me. Well it didn’t take long for a man to see my collar, come over, ask me if I wanted a drink and begin small chat. Very quickly he found out that I was from St. Louis and the topic immediately turned to Ferguson. After a couple of drinks he came to the conclusion that there must be somethings which unite all of us as Americans and so he asked me if I believed their was one common ground amongst all Americans. After pausing to think for a moment I came to the conclusion that there are a great many things that divide us as a nation but I truly believe that regardless of our differences we are all searching for joy.

     Everybody in our world is searching for true and lasting joy: thus, while we may not realize it, all of us are starving for God. Now I’m sure many of you are asking how can that be, there are countless people who don’t seem to care at all about God. While people may not think that they are searching for God they are searching to be fulfilled and as St. Augustine famously surmised our hearts are restless until they rest in you O Lord. If we look at the world around us we see this endless pursuit for lasting happiness in man’s desire for material pleasure, in the explosion of addictions and in the rampant consumerism that plagues our country. Yet, matter where we look, no amount of material pleasure will bring any of us lasting joy because material things can never satisfy spiritual needs.

     This past Sunday we lit the pink candle on the advent wreath and celebrated Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice Sunday, which takes its name from the command of St. Paul to rejoice always. Is that even possible? Can we truly rejoice always? Is St. Paul asking the impossible from us? If we want to rejoice always we must first understand what joy is. Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”[1] While many Christian religions define joy in the same way, we as Catholics know joy is something much greater. After all if joy was just an emotion wouldn’t it be impossible to rejoice always. I mean let’s be honest, there are different seasons to life. Sometimes life moves forward with ease, we feel close to God and the days just seem to pass smoothly, but there are other times when life is much more difficult and God appears far away, our prayer becomes difficult and other people seem to be a bother to us. Regardless of where we are in life, if we are to follow the command of St. Paul we need to experience joy in all moments of life even when our emotions are not feeling joyful. If joy, then, is not simply a happy feeling in response to worldly fortune, then what is true joy?

     If we want a true understanding of joy we must turn to the Christmas miracle, we must gaze upon the little Child laying in the manager and ask ourselves why would God come down to earth to become man. Jesus is clear in today’s gospel reading from St John that He calls us His friends and He has demonstrated the depth of that friendship by giving up His life for us, for “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends?” My brothers and sisters the whole Christian way of life is rooted in the truth that God became man. That child laying in a manger and the man hanging on the cross both boldly proclaim that God cares. He came into this world in less than ideal circumstances out of love, to live for us. Regardless of the situations we find ourselves in we can rejoice because God shared it all, even His own son. Simply said “With Him everything. Without Him nothing. He is the Lord.”[2]

     When viewed through the lens of the Christmas story joy takes on a whole new meaning. Joy is no longer some superficial feeling, but rather a gift from God himself, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the circumstances of our life we have a reason for joy and that reason is the Godchild laying in the manger.

     To experience that joy we need a radically new of looking at life, we need to look at life through the lens of the Christmas story, because Christmas demands a radical reorientation of our personal lives. When we look at the child in the manger we cannot help but recognize that He came to live for us, so now we must live for others. Just as Christ emptied Himself completely for us, so now we must empty ourselves of any self-seeking and imitate His example of living for others. Joy is not something we have only when our lives are in order. Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which springs from a relationship with Christ, but that relationship with Jesus requires effort on our part.

     If we want to experience the true joy of Christmas we must live our lives like Jesus. We must imitate Christ who calls us friends. We must imitate Christ by laying down our lives for others, after all no one has greater love than this, to lay down, one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading from St. John that the key to true joy is to keep His commandment, to love one another as He has loved us. If we want to rejoice always, we must be like Jesus. We must live for others and not for ourselves.

     Before we can truly imitate Christ and live for others we must first enter into relationship with Him, who no longer calls us slaves, but friends. We have done nothing to earn friendship with Christ, yet He freely chooses to give us that relationship in our baptism, when He made us a member of His body and poured His Spirit into us. Christ has given us the gift of friendship with Him, so we must work to nourish that relationship. All relationships require that we communicate with the other. If we want joy we must take time to be alone with Jesus in prayer. If you don’t know where to start perhaps start small, make a concrete resolution tonight to improve your relationship one small step at a time and if you struggle with that make it your resolution to simply ask Jesus everyday for the desire to deepen your relationship with Him. Talk to Jesus, listen to Jesus and allow Him to make you a man or woman of joy. As we begin to grow closer to Christ we will begin to see that at times we fall short of true friendship with Christ and like all of our relationships we will need ask forgiveness from Him. If we truly want to deepen our relationship with Christ and thus experience authentic joy we must come frequently to the sacrament of confession and encounter our friend, Jesus, in the person of the priest and ask forgiveness from Him.

     When we make time with Jesus a daily priority our own priorities will sort themselves out. We will find the void in our life and fill it with what we were made for, a relationship with Jesus, rather than other superficial band aids like food, drink, complaining, or the many addictions that plague our culture. Even when all of the trials of life seem to be swelling up around us let us look to the child in the manger and be patient with hope for we know the dark night will give way to the light of true beauty. While no material success can lead to true joy, time with Jesus means joy, a joy that is addictive and will attract new followers to Christ and lead to peace on earth. Our “faith is joy, therefore it makes beauty.”[3] “Our faith, too begins with wonder at the very fact of creation and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.”[4] My brothers and sisters, when we have a personal encounter with the Lord in the Nativity scene our lives can never be the same, let us make this Christmas the best Christmas ever by making a firm resolution to rid ourselves of any behavior that causes us to turn in on ourselves rather then live outwardly for others so that our sadness can be turned to light and we can truly “Rejoice in the Lord always.”[5]


[2] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). pg. 161.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 31.

[4] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 103.

[5] Philippians 4:4

3rd Sunday in Advent Year B

Is 61: 1-2A, 10-11 / Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 / 1 Thes 5: 16-24 / Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

     I can’t believe how quickly time is flying. It seems like just yesterday we were beginning this season of Advent and now Christmas is less than 2 weeks away. I don’t know about you, but as Christmas draws nearer I find myself rushing to be ready. Today, amidst the hustle and bustle, the Church calls us to set aside time to rejoice.

     Today’s first reading and Gospel both proclaim the coming of the long promised Messiah, the coming which, during this Advent, we have been preparing our hearts to receive, the coming which today’s second reading instructs us requires the response of rejoicing always. Is it even possible? Can we truly rejoice always? St. Paul does not instruct us to do the impossible, we can truly rejoice always, but perhaps not in the way we think of rejoicing. Certainly every life contains sadness but regardless of what is going on in our lives we have a reason for joy. Today we are challenged to a radically new way of seeing life, we are challenged to see life through the lens of the Christmas story. It is precisely because our joy is rooted in the truth that God became man that we are able to rejoice always. This Advent we have reason to rejoice because as the famous poem attributed to St. Patrick says “Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ besides me.” We have a reason to rejoice because Christ is behind us, He is with us and He is ahead of us.

     At the 1st Christmas God entered into human life, He experienced the joys and sufferings of life. God left the comfort of heaven and vulnerably entered into the trials of life to bring joy to this world, the joy of eternal life. That child laying in a manger, which we will see in our nativity set, on Christmas and the man hanging on the cross over the altar both boldly proclaim that God cares. He came into this world in less than ideal circumstances out of love, to live for us, now we must live for Him. The Blessed Mother faced with the news that she would become the mother of God did not respond with fear, anxiousness or concern, but rather, in complete trust exclaimed, as we did in today’s responsorial psalm, “My soul rejoices in my God.” Regardless of the situations we find ourselves in we can rejoice because God shared it all, even His own son. Simply said “With Him everything. Without Him nothing. He is the Lord.”[1]

     Jesus did not come into history at one moment only to depart and leave us orphans. No matter how far we stray from God, He is never distant; His Spirit is poured into us and the only response is to come rejoicing with unceasing prayer as today’s second reading commands us to. Is that even possible? Can we truly pray without ceasing? To pray always as St. Paul instructs us to, we must keep Christ at the center of our lives. How often in the midst of trials do we turn in on ourselves and shut Jesus out because we fail to recognize His presence in the midst of the trials? Praying always can be as simple as the frequent cries of simple short prayers like “Jesus help me,” or “My Lord and my God,” or even the words of Christ on the cross “My God, my God why have your forsaken me.”

     Regardless of how far away Jesus seems He is always near to us. He is here in the sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Confession; He is here in His Word contained in Sacred Scripture and in the encounter of someone in need. If God feels far away perhaps we need to make a radical shift in how we view the world, we must view the world through the lens of the Christmas story and rejoice because Christ has entered into humanity and experienced the same joys and hardships we endure. He is always present waiting for us to encounter Him, if only we are willing to risk running to Him. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that He is already there waiting for us with open arms.”[2]

     Jesus came to save us, He remains with us as we journey the pilgrimage of life and He will come again to lead us to eternal life. My brothers and sisters we have every reason to be joyful. We rejoice because we know that Jesus is behind us, he has entered into human life and shared it to the fullest. We rejoice because Jesus is always with us: never distant, even when we stray from Him and we rejoice because Jesus is ahead of us, for every tick of the clock brings us closer to the greater eternal encounter with Him who is the fulfillment of all our desires.

[1] Kowalska, St. Faustina. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge: Marian Press. (2011). pg. 161.

[2] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014). pg. 1.

2nd Sunday in Advent Year B

IS 40: 1-5, 9-11 / PS 85: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 / 2 Pt 8 – 14 / Mk 1:1-8

     Today’s readings kind of appear to send a mixed message. In the first reading we hear “Comfort, give comfort to my people!” then in the second reading we hear “the heavens will pass with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire” and then in the Gospel we are given the image of John the Baptist wearing camels hair, eating locust and calling people to prepare the way of the Lord. I don’t know about you but destruction by fire, wearing camels hair and eating locusts is not exactly my idea of comfort but perhaps today’s readings do not sound like our idea of comfort because God’s ways are not our ways and He is not content to give us simply passing comforts. No He desires that we have true and lasting happiness.

     Happiness seems to be the one constant desire of everyone in our world. Everybody in our world is searching for true and lasting happiness: thus, while we may not realize it, all of us are starving for God. Now I’m sure many of you are asking how can that be, there are countless people who don’t seem to care at all about God. Well, while people may not think that they are searching for God they are searching to be fulfilled and as St. Augustine famously surmised our hearts are restless until they rest in you O Lord. If we look at the world around us we see this endless pursuit for lasting happiness in man’s desire for material pleasure, in the explosion of addictions and in the rampant consumerism that plagues our country. No matter where we look no amount of material pleasure will bring any of us lasting happiness because material things can never satisfy spiritual needs.

     If no material needs can satisfy our spiritual desire for God, why do so many people continue to seek happiness in passing things? I think one of the reasons is as simple as the economic theory of supply and demand. If we do not supply for the world the happiness they are looking for they will go and look elsewhere. Simply speaking we are not doing a good job spreading the message of the Gospel, the only message that can bring us true and lasting happiness and so people are turning to the message of the world. Just look around us, how many people even know that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ? My friends the advertisements are doing a great job of selling the consumerism of Christmas, we must step up our game and tell the world the true meaning of Christmas.

     If we truly believe the story of Christmas we cannot help but become John the Baptists and announce the coming of the Lord. Our entire lives must give witness to Christ; no matter who we are, where we are, or what we do in life, people must look at us and say “he is a Christian” or “she is a Christian” People need to be able to recognize us as Christians because we love no matter what, because we endure no matter what and because we bring joy and truth to others regardless of the circumstances. People need to be able to look at us and say “there must be a God because here is one of His children.” Now if we want to have that joy which manifests ourselves as Christians we must have conversion for “the root of all our unhappiness is the result of sin and its effects. The sooner we are free from the distortions and crippling of sin the sooner we will experience fuller joy and freedom as sons and daughters of God and be able more and more to be a blessing to others.”[1] If we first order our own lives into conformity with the Christian way of life we will find joy and that joy will radiate out into the world attracting others to the Joy of the Gospel.

     Now many of you are probably sitting there thinking something like, “well deacon that is beautiful, if only it was so easy.” Well nothing worth pursuing come easy but perhaps it becomes easier when we take time this advent to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. One of the most difficult adjustments I had to make in the seminary came at the end of my 4 years of college when I began my theology studies and I started to dress like a priest wearing the Roman collar. I was pretty sure God was calling me to be a priest and I loved my faith, but their was something about literally wearing my faith around my neck that scared me. Previously I could be an anonymous Christian, I could live my Christian faith without anyone in public really knowing. As I struggled with being public about my faith I found myself asking a very simple question. Do I believe in the Christmas story? In a short time it became apparent to me that if the Christmas story is really true, I have no choice but to proclaim that great news to the whole world. If God truly became man how can we not share that news with the world?

     My friends when we have a personal encounter with the Lord in the Nativity scene our lives cannot ever be the same. Our “faith is joy, therefore it makes beauty.”[2] “Our faith, too begins with wonder at the very fact of creation and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.”[3] This advent, take some time wonder at the great Christmas mystery and then go out into the world and become another John the Baptist, and share the good news of Christ birth, through the witness of your life.

[1] Martin, Ralph. The Fulfillment of All Desire. Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing. (2006). pg 352.

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 31.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 103.

1st Sunday of Advent Year B

Is 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7 / PS 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 /  1 Cor 1:3-9 / MK 13:33-37

     It’s that time of year again where we seem to be running from one place to the other, getting our Christmas shopping done, meeting with old friends and making new ones, and perhaps most stressful of all we find ourselves cleaning the house and preparing to have guests over. It is certainly understandable that we have many things going on over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas which demand our attention, but amidst all of the hustle and bustle, we hear our Lord warn us, in today’s gospel, to be watchful and prepare for His coming. Just think for a moment about all the preparations you are making for Christmas. What preparations are you making for the Lord, who promises to come again at the appropriate time? Amidst all of the holiday cheer we must find time to center our attention on the coming of Christ.

      Today, the first Sunday of Advent, is the beginning of a new liturgical year and a new year for our spiritual journey. Just as many of us make new years resolutions for the secular new year shouldn’t we also make new years resolutions for our spiritual lives? It is now, as we prepare for the coming of Christ during Advent, that is the perfect time to start anew and find some resolutions to help us grow in our relationship with God. The word advent literally translates to mean “coming toward.” This advent our Lord wants to come toward us, but as He comes toward us, we must make sure we are prepared to receive Him. Advent is a time for us to open our hearts to the grace of God, to allow ourselves to be the clay in the potter’s hands, to allow God to mold us into the best version of ourselves, the version of ourselves He created us to be.

     The events in Ferguson have shown me that all of us have room to grow closer to Christ, the Prince of Peace. Imagine what our community would look like if every person took just one step to deepen their relationship with the Lord this year. Certainly we can’t control what others will do, but we can control what we will do, so why not take advantage of this new spiritual year and make it a year of growth? Imagine what our already great parish would look like if all of us took just one small step in developing our relationship with the Lord this year, allowing Him to mold us into the best version of ourselves.

     The first step in surrendering ourselves over to the potter is to step back and make an honest assessment of our lives. I think if we make an honest assessment of our lives we will see that very few of us have drastic changes to make, but all of us need to make some small changes in our spiritual life. Whether you need to make drastic or small changes now is the time.

     All of us find ourselves in different places, but all of us find ourselves with room for improvement in our faith lives. Some of us struggle to pray throughout the week, why not make a resolution to spend 5 minutes in prayer every morning and again before you go to bed or perhaps begin the practice of saying the rosary two or three times a week, or even carve out 30 minutes once or twice a week to spend praying before Jesus in our Blessed Sacrament chapel. Others of us find ourselves lacking a knowledge of the Bible or the teachings of our faith, wouldn’t a great new years resolution be to set a plan to read the Bible in a year or find some other book about our faith to read, or maybe even join one of the Bible study programs at the parish. Some of you may feel disconnected from the parish community; why not find a parish organization to join this year? Perhaps we have not been to confession in a while; why not make a resolution to go to confession once a month? Could it be perhaps that some of us are struggling to go to Mass every Sunday? Why not make a resolution to go to Mass every Sunday? Wherever you find room for improvement in your spiritual life now is the time to work to improve it.

     Today, faced with the knowledge that our Lord will come again to bring to heaven those of us who have allowed the potter to make us the best version of ourselves, we have two options. We can either pretend we don’t have any room for growth and drift along in our spiritual lives on the way to destruction or we can ask God to mold us into the person He created us to be. The option is ours, will we be the hardened clay, that settled clay which needs no molding and which the potter cannot work with, or will we remain the moist clay, and allow the potter to continue to shape us? The clay that hardens, can only be broken into a thousand little pieces, but the moist clay can be reshaped even when things go wrong. Why not make one small resolution this advent to allow the Lord to continue to shape you.

     Let us not waste this opportunity to grow this Advent as we wait for the Lord to come into our hearts at Christmas and in Glory at the end of time. Now is the time to make one small step towards a deeper relationship with Him. Why not take some time this week to evaluate where you are in your life and then make a resolution to take one small step closer to the Lord and focus on fulfilling that resolution this Advent and into the New Year?

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

PRV 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 / 1 Thes 5:1-6 /  MT 25:15-30

     One day Satan summoned three demons before him for a challenge. He asked each of them how they would tempt men to hell. The first said, “I will tell them that there I no heaven.” The devil shook his head, “No that won’t work because everyone thinks they are going to heaven.” The next demon said, “I’ll tell them there’s no hell!” Again the devil shook his head and said, “No that won’t work either because everyone believes their enemy is going to hell.” The last demon went up and whispered something in the devil’s ear. The devil smiled and said, “Ok, I’ll send you,” and he sent the demon off to earth to lead as many people as he could to the underworld. The other two, confused as what he may have said asked, “what did he say?” The devil answered, “he said, ‘I’ll tell them that there’s no hurry, that there’s always time to change.”

     In some ways doesn’t this story play our in our lives? How often do we think we can bury our faith in the ground and dig it back up later towards the end of our life? With the coming of Advent in just two weeks the Church will celebrate her new year, and as we close out this month of November, the month of the dead and journey through the first two weeks of Advent, the Church invites us to consider the truth that our time on earth is short and we must be prepared to meet God face to face for our death will come like a thief in the night.

     Our Lord’s parable in today’s gospel is very clear, we are the servants and God is the master who has entrusted us with certain gifts and talents. Sure some of us have been given more talents than others but all of us have the greatest talent, the gift of our faith, the supernatural ability to know, love and serve God in this world so that we may be happy with Him in the next forever. All of us from the moment of our baptism have been given the gift of faith. Sure some of us have a deeper faith than others, but even those of us who only have one talent of faith have been entrusted with allot. A talent was a unit of measurement that amounted to about 16 ½ years worth of income, so even the servant who received only one talent received allot of money. At our baptism God made a huge principle investment in our lives and He asks us to invest in our faith and to allow that investment to grow. Sadly as Catholics, our faith is often one of the most buried and underdeveloped talents we have. The question Jesus asks us today is what are we doing with the gift of faith. Do we bury our faith in the ground on Sunday so that we can dig it up next week or do we invest our faith through the week allowing it to grow. We must invest our faith, for a dormant faith is no faith at all.

     We invest our faith in two primary ways, firstly by coming to know our faith and then by sharing it with others. Sadly many Catholics stop practicing their faith soon after confirmation; it is almost as though we think we have graduated from the school of faith. Will an athlete who has a gift for a particular sport but never practices ever become a professional? Of course not; so why should the Christian who never develops his faith through practice and prayer ever become holy or go to heaven? The key to living a faith filled life is love. Most people become successful at what they do because they love it. The former superior of the Jesuits Fr. Pedro Arrupe famously said “nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love, in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”[1] Through practicing our faith we fall more and more in love with our Lord and it becomes easier to practice our faith because it’s easy to practice and sacrifice for something when we love it. This love of our faith should compel us to share it with others and in so doing receive more than we can give. As we share our faith with others, our own faith grows. Today, I invite you to find for yourself one concrete way to share you faith during the week, and one way to nurture your faith either through prayer or study.

     The Gospel reminds us that our God is truly a demanding God. He is a demanding God because He is a lover and love is demanding. God loves us too much to leave us where we are and so He challenges us to make a greater return on His principle investment. I don’t know about you, but the sweetest words I can ever hope to hear in my life are the words of Jesus saying to me, “well done my good and faithful servant, come share your master’s joy,” but to hear these words at the end of our lives we must work now to invest the faith God has given us in our baptism and nourished through His sacraments by further developing it and sharing it with others. Like any investment we can’t just save our faith we must invest it, use it and share it. As we prepare for the new Church year let’s make a resolution to find one concrete way to grow in our faith and find one concrete way to share it with others this coming year.

[1] Finding God in All Things (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press) 2009. pg 100. accessible at

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12 / PS 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9 / 1 Cor 3: 9C-11, 16-17 / Jn 2: 13 – 22

     Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This ancient building was originally a Roman fortress turned into a palace of the Roman emperor Constantine, who gave it to Pope Miltiades and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester I in the year 324. It is this church, not St. Peter’s Basilica like many believe, that is the Pope’s Cathedral, in fact the popes lived there until 1308. Being the first of the Churches in Rome, and the Pope’s Basilica, it is also our mother church. Like all churches it had ups and downs, it experienced fires, wars, earthquakes and many bad popes. It has been rebuilt, renovated and restored countless times, and today it stands as beautiful as ever, as a great witness of our faith. As our mother church we celebrate her dedication with love and reverence for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but what else does today’s feast have to teach us? In today’s Gospel Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and speaks of His body as the true temple. St. Paul building on the teaching of Christ illustrates that we are temples of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

     Our bodies are not simply collections of molecules which entrap our souls, no our bodies are sacred; they are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies and so when we treat our bodies without proper reverence and respect we defame God, in whose image we are made. Sadly today the goodness and sacredness of the body is under constant attack. Recently their has been a renewed push to convince us that we need to take control of our lives by giving ourselves the right to end our life if we so desire through physician assisted suicide. If we believe with Saint Paul that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, how can we support the killing of a terminally ill person; the destruction of a temple of the Holy Spirit? In short mercy killing is selfish, and any kind of selfishness extinguishes the flame of God in our hearts. Today God invites us to overturn the money tables of selfishness in our own hearts and turn back to His love which is present even amidst great suffering.

     Yes death is inevitable; it is an inevitable part of every single one of our lives, but God who dwells in my body is the author of life, not me and to deface God’s temple by claiming to be its author is gravely wrong. Like the Lateran Basilica our bodies can be beaten and bruised but they still stand. Even amidst great suffering our bodies have infinite value because God has deigned them to be His temples.

     At the core of any argument for physician assisted suicide is the belief that no good can come from suffering but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Christ came into this world to suffer and die. He took the means of our suffering and death and made it the means of our redemption. Our God knows suffering; Christ lived suffering and died for our salvation. God’s allowance of His son to suffer and die very clearly shows us two truths. “The first is that suffering and even total ruin do not signify a lack of love on the part of the Father. The second is that suffering is not in vain; it bears fruit and has redeeming power.”[1]God does not abandon those who suffer rather He enters into the suffering with us. “Ultimately, far from ruining Christian hope, suffering is advantageous; for it is even necessary. Without it, hope would be vague, an ill defined yearning for happiness.”[2]

     Central to the arguments of those who believe in physician assisted suicide is a false belief that individuals have a right to live and so by extension die completely as they wish. Sadly our culture tries to tell us that we can control everything in our lives to make them as comfortable as possible, yet all of us who live in reality know this is simply not true. Our culture is building a world that is concerned with taking the easy way out of suffering and death, but this way is completely against the example set for us by Jesus. If God desires to dwell within each and every person, who are we to say any life is not worth living? If our life, with all its ugliness and suffering, is good enough for God shouldn’t it also be good enough for us? Since life, as a gift from God, is a worth in and of itself, we cannot have a right to die on our own terms. Our bodies are not simple pieces of property that we can buy, sell, discard or do whatever we want with because we have been purchased at a price, the immeasurable price of Christ’s blood. “The gift of life, God’s special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love.”[3]

     It is precisely when life becomes afflicted by weakness and sickness that it is all the more deserving of humane care. When we support physician assisted suicide we destroy the boundary between healing and killing and we begin to walk down a very dangerous path. When we begin to diminish the value of human life we take away the meaning of all of our rights, and take away from God and ourselves our true identity as sons and daughters of God.

     Our Lord has deigned to create our bodies in His own image and to dwell within each and everyone of us. We must work to respect our bodies and the life of every human person, especially the sick and the suffering. While our bodies, like the Lateran Basilica can at times be battered and bruised our Lord will purify our them at the end of time to be more beautiful than the Lateran Basilica. Our Lord will use our suffering to build up His eternal basilica in heaven, if only we let Him.,

[1] Wilfrid Stinssen, Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011.) pg. 15.

[2] Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, Our Priest is Christ. pg 57

[3] Terence Cardinal Cooke, Letter on the Sanctity of Life. 9 October 1983.