Life Contest Essay
By Ben Burchfield, grade 8
Life is an inalienable right, given to all humans, that needs to be respected and valued. The passage Luke 9:23 perfectly illustrates this right and the steps needed to preserve it. If all people embraced this right, then we would be able to build a society built upon the celebration of life and a culture appreciating it. The stories of the saints show us that suffering for others helps us show the value and dignity of all human life. All human life has and deserves dignity.
Luke 9:23 talks about the importance of lessening ourselves to benefit others. The verse itself states: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The first part of this quote, “If anyone wishes to come after me,” can be interpreted as “If you want to come and follow me.” The adjacent portion of the verse, “must deny himself,” means that, in order to follow Jesus, we have to give up our worldly desires as well as value our brothers and sisters above ourselves. The final requirement to follow Jesus is to “take up his cross daily and follow me.” While this may seem like an impossible task, we can each pick up our cross by serving others and showing that we, as followers of Christ and His actions, value all life above our own. This quote can be interpreted as meaning that all of us can follow Jesus by valuing the lives of others above ourselves and serving others at every opportunity possible. Life is a right for all people that should be built upon and improved for all people to bring them closer to God.
If Catholics, as a whole, follow Jesus, given the expectations explained in Luke 9:23, we could build a culture of life and an appreciation for it. A culture of life would entail all people appreciating and building the right of life given to all people. Ways we could build a culture of life would be by caring for the elderly and respecting a preborn child’s right to life. One of the most important ways to build a culture of life is to love our enemies. Loving enemies is not an easy task for anyone, whether they be in grade school or working a full-time job. There are always going to be people whom we do not want to love, whether they be our boss, coworkers, classmates, or teammates. However, we can emulate Jesus and His love for us. Ways to love our enemies can be as simple as genuinely praying for their prosperity, doing something kind that benefits them, or any other small thing. The truth is that all people are made children of God in His image. If we choose to hate our enemies, we choose to hate Christ. However, if we choose to love our enemies, we choose to love Christ in a form that it is not easy to do. By loving Christ in the least of His forms, we are able to love Christ in His kingship. If all people show love and kindness to each other, we would be able to build a culture of appreciation for life.
The lives of the saints show the appreciation of life through the suffering of one’s self. St. Padre Pio was devoted to God from a young age, despite the hardships he went through all his life. His family was very poor and lived on a farm. Along with that, Pio, whose birth name was Francisco, had two siblings who died during childbirth. Regardless of all of that, St. Padre Pio still was loyal to God from such a young age. He also received a stigmata once while performing a penance service. Through his suffering, he showed God’s love for all people. He showed God’s love by his suffering. Suffering, in this sense, doesn’t necessarily mean going through extreme pain. Instead, suffering refers to putting one’s self below others and serving the needs of many. Those who suffer for God realize that the needs of many outweigh the needs of one’s self. All of this relates back to the quote from Luke 9:23 where it tells us that we need to value others above ourselves in order to follow Jesus. Through our own suffering, we can show appreciation for the life that was created in God’s likeness.
Life, when protected, will be prospered, celebrated, appreciated, and loved. This is more than evident in Luke 9:23. If all of God’s children choose to respect each other, then we will be able to build a culture of appreciation for life. St. Padre Pio showed this culture in his own life by loving God with all his heart. Through our suffering, putting ourselves below others, and serving their needs before our own, we show the appreciation and dignity that all human life deserves. Life is not meant to be discarded or thrown away like garbage. It is meant to be treasured and protected thousands of times more than we would guard our most valued possession. Human life is the most valuable physical thing in the universe and deserves to be treated like it.
©2018 Ben Burchfield. Published with permission.