Over the past few weeks, I have been breaking down our parish mission statement into sections, and this week we continue with “offering hope to those who hunger for human dignity.” What does it mean to offer hope? To offer hope does not simply mean to say that in some way things will get better, or that we just need to look at the sunny side of things. Hope, in our tradition, is a deeper sense that, in the midst of everything that might happen in our lives, each person’s life is held by the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
Where did the hope of Jesus lie? At his lowest moment, on the cross, he cried out the words of the psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Here we see the humanity of Jesus, alone and abandoned on the cross, asking the question countless people have asked throughout history – where is God in the middle of this suffering? And yet later in the psalm (Psalm 22), we hear the words, “yet you are holy, in you we trusted.” And so for Jesus, in the middle of his suffering, a sense that God has not abandoned him, that his life lived in love and service and fidelity to his Father has been received, and that even when everything seems lost (“why have you abandoned me?”), God is in fact present. Hope means that God is never absent from any person’s life. Hope means that we believe in a God of the horizon.
We have talked here among staff about the part of the statement that reads “those who hunger for human dignity.” Who are those who hunger for human dignity? Where do we see it here at St. Francis? We see it in many places: the migrant workers in the fields near Louisburg; prisoners on death row; the victims of those prisoners; the elderly who may live by themselves and have few visitors; the youth of our parish; their parents; really, anyone at all.
In the end, what it came down to was, doesn’t everyone hunger for human dignity? The term “human dignity” is a key term in Catholic teaching, and it means that our dignity, or worth, comes not from the culture (a culture that in so many ways tries to convince us that our worth is based on artificial values and false idols such as what we have, what we wear, what we drive, what we possess, how we look, where we stand) but that instead, our human dignity, or worth, is based on words that come from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: that we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). This is the reason the Catholic Church promotes the consistent ethic of human life, from those in the womb to those at the end of life.
Blessings on your week!