Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a homily Father Jason Cargo of St. Joseph Catholic Church delivered Oct. 6 at St. Rita Catholic Church for its annual Respect Life Mass.
As many of you might know, I am a twin. I am the twin of Dr. Jonathan Cargo, an eye doctor in Las Colinas who has six beautiful children and is married to his faithful and generous wife Kelly.
Growing up like most twins, we shared a room. We slept on bunk beds; we shared just about everything. When we would start to get onto each other’s nerves, we would draw a line across the room and say, “this is my side and this is yours.” By the end of the day, though, the line would dissolve and we would be back to sharing all that we had. As God would see it, we even ended up sharing each other’s friends. I realized in college that the greatest thing that God had given to us was each other. We had shared this friendship from the very beginning of our lives as we shared our mother’s womb.
Most of you probably grew up sharing your room or even your beds with your siblings. I want you to think about what a difference this made in your life. How this sharing helped you to be who God created you to be: a social person created to share your life.
A communion of persons
Today’s first reading is the powerful account of the creation of man. Instead of thinking of creation from the perspective of what exactly happened, think of this account as to why. In the book of Genesis, we see that God created man in his image and likeness and he said that it is not good for man to be alone. Why? Why is it not good for man to be alone? Well, simply put — God is a communion of persons where each person is equal and shares his life completely with the other. The only difference between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is their relationship with each other. If God made the human person, then the human person is meant to be social. We are meant to be in communion with other humans and to share our lives with others.
Think about it: In this creation account, we discover that animals were not suitable partners for Adam. We, too, discover that our pets, even though they are great companions and part of our families, can never be a suitable partner for us either.
It was only when God made another human person—a woman—that finally Adam could have someone he could call equal. This woman would be a person with whom he could exchange ideas. She would be someone with whom he could be vulnerable and whom he could love. Together, they could co-create with God new life. With woman he now could be who God has made him to be. He could be a communion of persons. He could be a family.
So they would share a house together, they would share a room together, they would even share a bed together. They would share everything and as the bible sums it up they would even share their bodies. “The two became one flesh.” Incidentally, this phrase in Hebrew is understood as someone having a complete meaning of the human experience—not just a carnal experience. These two human persons would offer themselves completely with each other: their conversations, dreams, procreative abilities. Everything!
In this way then, they would be in the image and likeness of God. St. Bernard of Clairvaux says that we are made in the image of God with our ability to choose to sacrifice for another. We are like God when we choose to do good for the other. This is the biblical account of the human person.
A changing culture
Unfortunately, for most of us we do not think of this. Instead we have drunk in the spirit of radical individualism that is found in modern and post-modern thought. People like Immanuel Kant of the 18th century and his successor John Stuart Mill saw the human person as an isolated individual who makes ethical choices. The individual had to have the right to make these ethical choices or otherwise he would be less of a human person.
This ushered in an idea that an individual’s right is what is most important to the human person. We have to respect these rights not because we are grafted into a shared human family but because in modern and post-modern thought radical individuality is intrinsically connected with identity of the human person.
How does this work in our lives? Well, we tend to give our children their own rooms where they can do what they want and make their own choices. We tend to tell our children that they can do whatever they want as long as they work hard enough and make choices that benefit them. We escape other people through immersing ourselves into avatars and virtual realities. We dive into our cell phones watching the illuminated screen and are willing to think that the person liking my post is more important than the person sitting across the table from me having dinner.
We decide in a culture that a person can decide whether or not a baby in her womb is a baby, or even worse they know it’s a baby, and decide whether or not to keep the baby. The Supreme Court Case, Roe versus Wade, says that it’s the indvidual’s right to make a decision and end the life of the baby.
We deceive ourselves and think that man should have the right to become a woman and carry a child if he so chooses. We are told that marriage is simply a contractual relationship between two individuals and therefore that it can be ended. Or we are told that there is no longer any need for marriage since we are no longer having children. With contraception, the life giving act of sexual intercourse become a shadow of its real meaning. There’s not a sharing of two persons but a radical selfish individualism that is happening.
Ultimately, the understanding of the human person as radical individuals had led our society to a place where truth does not exist and the human person aches because they live only in the shadows for which they were created. We are created as human persons to be in the image and likeness of God and be people who share their lives with others. God sees us right now in the 21st century and he sees something that is not brand new. He saw this radical individualism at the very beginning.
Think of Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve. When Cain cried out to him, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain spoke the same words of radical individualism that we speak today.
It’s the pride of thinking that we don’t need anyone and that we are self-sufficient in ourselves. We do this when we think it’s okay that abortion is happening in our community. I’m not going to the abortion mills to pray for those who are about to end the life of their children. We cry out I am my brother’s keeper. It’s the same mentality when we refuse to forgive the person in our life. Or when we put the phone before our family. When we put business in front of the human person. We cry out I am my brother’s keeper. God saw this and he said I want to end this.
God saw this and planned from the beginning to send his Son, Jesus to take the scars of our radical individualism onto his body and to then out of deep communion to show the act of love by sharing his same body with you and I. You see today, the only way we can escape the clutches of radical individualism is to find in Jesus Christ the gateway to living a life of communion of persons.
In our own lives Jesus speaks to us to be in deeper communion when he says — come and worship me. He says to us that all that stuff which is going into my hands and feet, this is my love for you — so that you can be in communion with me. Jesus speaks to us when we come to mass. Come worship me — come and allow me to feed you at the Holy Eucharist.
When we decide to listen to that voice that I need to put down that phone or I need to work hard on my marriage — that’s the voice of Jesus who enters our mind and be the person I created you to be: a social person to be in the communion with others.
Indeed, I have been blessed deeply to have a twin brother with whom I have shared much of my life. Just like you have been blessed having your own people in your life. But, it’s not about sharing a womb with my twin brother or a room growing up.
Today is the day that I decide that I am going to share my life with other people and the day that you decide to share your lives with those who are in your life.
Isn’t that what respecting life is really all about?