March 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Why is life sacred? For Catholics, the answer to this question is central to the commitment to the defense of innocent human life, from its conception to its natural end.
As a former medical doctor who was a general practitioner from 1979 to 1990 and specialized in medical ethics at the Créteil School of Medicine after receiving a university degree in 1994, Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris is a recognized expert in the field. His homily for the first Sunday of Lent in his Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, was a striking and thought-provoking reflection on the value of life, which cannot be disassociated from the reality of God and His love.
The temptations of Christ in the desert, explained Archbishop Aupetit, commenting on the gospel of the day, are truly linked with the realities of life and death, and the way man should consider them.
“This life goes infinitely beyond its organic expression,” he said.
From his preaching, the inherent evil of the willful destruction of human life — but also that of choosing to live at the price of rejecting God, or of refusing suffering against the will of God — becomes very clear.
Archbishop Aupetit’s sermon offered beautiful insights into Jesus’ human sufferings, in particular His 40 days of fasting. Here is LifeSite’s translation:
“The Devil exhausted all types of temptation, this gospel tells us. It is about the temptations Jesus, the Son of God, went through in so far as he assumed our humanity. They join the most fundamental temptations that affect our human life. They are about life, God, and love. That is: the three matters that allow our humanity to enter into the salvation of God. This salvation is quite easily accessible to us if we believe St. Paul: ‘For, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9).
“The first temptation is about life and death. As a matter of fact, the Devil comes to tempt Jesus when He is on the point of dying. The thesis of a doctor friend helped me to understand what this phrase of the gospel means: ‘After 40 days, Jesus was hungry.’ When we fast, taking only water, we suffer for about three or four days, which is the time necessary for the sugar in the body to rebalance. Then hunger disappears thanks to the balance that appears when the body draws on its reserve of sugar in the muscles and the liver. After about 30 days, or 40 for the more robust, hunger reappears, meaning that all the reserves have been exhausted and that the person is going to die. It is the hunger of death. This temptation of the Devil saying he will change stones into bread amounts to asking Jesus to escape from death. It is the same temptation He heard on the day of His passion: ‘If you are the Son of God, descend from the cross!’ (Matthew 27:40).
“The second temptation is about our relationship to God. It relates to idolatry, that is, the way in which we move away from the Lord in order to serve our ambitions, our thirst for glory and recognition. Christ does not draw His glory from human vanities. His descent to the very lowest point of our humanity shows us where we should search for the glory that comes from God, the glory that has a value for eternity. On Palm Sunday, the crowds acclaim Him. At other times, the people want to make Him king, but Jesus steals away. He knows where true glory lies: ‘“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike’ (Matthew 11:25). The wise and the learned are those arrogant and pretentious men who believe they can do without God. Jesus on the cross is clad with the Glory of God, which is to love unto the end.
“The third temptation is about love. We always need to know just how far those who love us are capable of going because of that love. Tempting God is not having confidence in Him and putting Him to the test. Jesus will not tempt his Father, even in the paroxysm of anguish. At Gethsemane, at the heart of the most profound dereliction, Jesus will ask His Father to spare Him the horrible suffering of the cross. Yet He ends his prayer in trusting abandonment: ‘Still, not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).
“On this first Sunday of Lent, we see the fight that we must undertake. We are always required to choose life, but this life goes infinitely beyond its organic expression. This is why all life is sacred. If Jesus accepted to pass through death, He who is the Son of God, it is to show us that even in the most complete degradation, in the most fragile of lives, we must recognize the divine presence. After having chosen life, we must also choose the one who is its source: God. Lent allows us to put the Lord back into the center of our existence. It is a benediction. Let us not pass it by. At the end, we must make an act of faith, that is, of total confidence in the love of God which accompanies us everywhere and always, whatever the trials, in the joyful and in the sorrowful moments of our lives.
“The temptations of Jesus put us again face to face with essentials: life, God, love. They are the most terrible temptations that will always cut across our existence. In contemplating the Lord’s combat, we will strive to welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to choose life, to adore God and to receive love so that we in turn can live thanks to it. The Resurrection of Jesus is His victory for our salvation.”