The Gospel of God’s love for man and the dignity of the human person

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By Father Angel Perez-Lopez

As we celebrate the anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (EV), we must acknowledge the many challenges present in our culture that undermine the dignity of the human person: infants are still murdered in the womb; assisted suicide is considered legal in some places; sick people are not valued as they should be, etc. In these difficult times, we make John Paul II’s principle our own – “the Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel” (EV, 2).

God is the center of the universe. We are not. Every creature that exists has been created to manifest God’s goodness. This is the correct angle from which we need to understand the dignity of the human person. Such dignity is never absolute. It is always relative to the Lord.

In fact, our natural dignity consists in our unique way of participating in God as the source of our being and goodness. Unlike any other creature of the material world, we are created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:27). We resemble Him because of our rational nature. Therefore, our natural dignity concerns who we are. It is not about what we do or what we possess (cf. EV, 19). It cannot be lost (cf. EV, 9). It accompanies all of us for the rest of our lives, not only here on earth, but also in the afterlife.

Those who defend abortion or euthanasia, for instance, tend to mistake the natural dignity of the human person with the actual exercise of one of our personal capacities, such as reasoning, verbal communication, or free choice. To be sure, the actual exercise of these capacities is a manifestation of our natural dignity. Yet, they are not the root of it. Our dignity is found beyond the level of activity. It belongs to our being, to our rational nature, and the level to which such nature participates in God’s own being.

Of course, we must distinguish our natural dignity from the dignity that we acquire when we grow in God’s image and likeness. Indeed, saints resemble God more than sinners. Mother Teresa of Calcutta looks more like God than Adolf Hitler. In this sense, although both have the same natural and inalienable dignity, saints have a greater acquired or moral dignity. The latter can be lost through mortal sin during our earthly pilgrimage. However, once we are in heaven, that acquired dignity will be ours for all eternity. Ware created for this fullness of being and we should not settle for less.

The Gospel of God’s love for the human person is also present and at work in our day and age. Indeed, nothing escapes God’s power, not even a pandemic. Because of our personal dignity, we are called to freely cooperate with Him. Good things are positively willed by the Lord in view of His glory and our own good. Evil things are allowed by God, also in view of His glory and our good. For this reason, Saint Paul declares that, “in all things God is at work for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28).

Nowadays, we need to remember that because of our dignity, we are created for heaven. There is a hierarchy of goods. To be sure, our life is a good that needs to be treasured, but the health of our soul is far more important. We can also sacrifice the health of our own body for the good of the souls of others.

As Christ said, no one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends (cf. Jn. 15:13). These challenging times are also a call from God to treat others as God’s friends. If necessary, we are also to lay down our lives for them, following the example of Jesus. This is also why, as St. John Paul II reminds us, “the Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel” (EV, 2).

COMING UP: Preparing your Home and Heart for the Advent Season

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The Advent season is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the Lord’s birth on Christmas.  It extends over the four Sundays before Christmas.  Try some of these Ideas to celebrate Advent in your home by decorating, cooking, singing, and reading your way to Christmas. Some of the best ideas are the simplest.

Special thanks to Patty Lunder for putting this together!

Advent Crafts

Handprint Advent Wreath for Children 
Bring the meaning of Advent into your home by having your kids make this fun and easy Advent wreath.

Materials
Pink and purple construction paper
– Yellow tissue or construction paper (to make a flame)
– One piece of red construction paper cut into 15 small circles
– Scissors
– Glue
– Two colors of green construction paper
– One paper plate
– 2 empty paper towel tubes

1. Take the two shades of green construction paper and cut out several of your child’s (Children’s) handprints. Glue the handprints to the rim of a paper plate with the center cut out.

2. Roll one of the paper towels tubes in purple construction paper and glue in place.

3. Take the second paper towel and roll half in pink construction paper and half in purple construction and glue in place.

4. Cut the covered paper towel tubes in half.

5. Cut 15 small circles from the red construction paper. Take three circles and glue two next to each other and a third below to make berries. Do this next to each candle until all circles are used.

6. Cut 4 rain drop shapes (to make a flame) from the yellow construction paper. Each week glue the yellow construction paper to the candle to make a flame. On the first week light the purple candle, the second week light the second purple candle, the third week light the pink candle and on the fourth week light the final purple candle.

A Meal to Share during the Advent Season

Slow-Cooker Barley & Bean Soup 

Make Sunday dinner during Advent into a special family gathering with a simple, easy dinner. Growing up in a large family, we knew everyone would be together for a family dinner after Mass on Sunday. Let the smells and aromas of a slow stress-free dinner fill your house and heart during the Advent Season. Choose a member of the family to lead grace and enjoy an evening together. This is the perfect setting to light the candles on your Advent wreath and invite all to join in a special prayer for that week.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
– 1/2 cup pearl barley (Instant works great, I cook separate and add at end when soup is done)
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
– 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
– 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– Salt to taste
– 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend (basil, oregano)
– Freshly ground black pepper
– One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
– 3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
– 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, extra for garnish

1. Put 6 cups water, the beans, barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 tablespoons salt, herb blend, some pepper in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the pot to break them down and add their juices. Cover and cook on high until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours. 

2. Add the spinach and cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with a baguette.