In Christianity we celebrate great mysteries: The Incarnation, the Trinity, the unmerited gift of salvation, among others. Humbly we acknowledge that what we know of these mysteries is revealed to us by God through the sacred Scriptures and through the church; we could not come to know these truths of faith by our own human capacities or technologies.
The mysteries of faith are at once glorious and confounding. We rejoice that God chose to become a human in the Incarnation, knowing that it was through the divine/human Jesus that our redemption was accomplished. But we cannot fully comprehend this or any other great truth of faith, given our limited human understanding.
Christian faith requires a great deal of trust in a God who loves us and who has promised to be with us to the end of time. Genesis reveals to us one of these mysteries: that we are made "in God's image." God has shared with humans what he has not shared with other of his creatures; that is, we have the ability to choose.
Having this gift requires that, as we make choices, we are to act responsibly and in accordance with God's designs. For Christians, and for people of many other faiths, acting in ways that are contrary to God's plan is a misuse of our God-given ability to make choices.
Adam and Eve knew what God's plan for them was, but they chose to do what they knew was wrong. As a result of their choice, which symbolizes the choices humans continue to make that are not in accord with God's design, they suffered the consequences.
Being made in God's image gives humans a dignity and beauty that is unique in creation. For that reason we believe that all human life, including the living humans developing in their mothers' wombs, must be respected and protected. As living humans who grow, respire, respond to stimuli and have the potential to reproduce, human fetuses are more than an aggregation of undifferentiated cells.
Even in the womb, a developing child shares the unique dignity given to all humans. Not only is this "product of conception" a biological reality, developing according to the code found in his or her genetic material, but it is also a unique human being, loved by God, sharing in the promise of salvation and deserving the civil legal protection that all humans enjoy.
The embryology class I took was one of the most amazing courses of my college career. As much as I was able to understand the beautifully intricate process that leads from the zygote to the newborn baby, I was coming to a deeper understanding of another mystery -- that in humans there is a transcendence, an element of our being that is more than physiological, more than chemical.
Even the unborn child shares God's image in that, along with its physical development, it is developing the capacity to make choices. When we choose to ignore the dignity of the unborn child, we are rejecting God's plan for humanity. When we choose to end the life of an unborn child, we are acting in a way that is in direct opposition to the dignity that God gives all people. Our "choice" to kill the unborn wounds our human family.
We celebrate October as "Pro-Life Month." We pray that all people will come to recognize and respect the beauty, the dignity and the great mystery of each human life.
The Rev. Michael Kavanaugh is pastor of the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta.