In the struggle for life, talking about God is indispensable. Only in this way does the value of the weak, the disabled, the nonproductive, the incurably ill become apparent; only in this way can we relearn and rediscover, too, the value of suffering: the greatest lesson on human dignity always remains the cross of Christ, our salvation has its origins not in what the Son of God did but in [H]is suffering, and whoever does not know how to suffer does not know how to live—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “The Problem of Threats to Human Life.”
The whole “pro-life question”—contraception, abortion, euthanasia—is, at its roots, an aspect of the problem of suffering. Openness to life means embracing suffering.
If teenagers are going to say “No” to premarital sex, they need to have learned as children to say “No” to smaller things, to accept their daily crosses–they are going to need to learn the value of suffering. Denying that basic urge to lust is a form of suffering; they are voluntarily imposing suffering upon themselves. They are denying themselves something. And that denial is going to cause them to suffer.
If a married couple is going to resist the temptation to contracept, they are going to have to embrace suffering. Again, they will be mortifying one of their most basic urges. Instead of saying “Yes” to contraception, they are saying “Yes” to life.
If a woman is going to remain open to life, open to bringing a child into the world instead of aborting it, she is going to have to embrace suffering. Even if prenatal diagnosis has told her that her child will have a life shortened or made miserable by disease, a life that in the eyes of society is “not worth living,” that child has a value. And the only way to see that value is to look to the Cross of Christ and to remember that He did His most valuable work at a time when He appeared the weakest and most vulnerable–during the last 3 hours of His Life, which He spent dying on the Cross. (cf. Life of Christ, Ven. Fulton J. Sheen).
Her life has a value. Even if it seems that this child is coming into her life at the most “inconvenient” time, is “disrupting” her life, is requiring her to make all sorts of “lifestyle modifications,” if she embraces the life of that child, and the changes in her life that that child will bring, she will see her value, and the value of her child. In embracing that child and those changes, she is embracing the Cross of Christ, and not only that, she is embracing Christ. And only in His wounds will she see her intrinsic value.
If an adult child is going to remain open to the life of a parent who has dementia, or has a stroke and needs constant care, he is going to have to embrace suffering. Even if his parent cannot dress or feed himself; if his parent’s mind wanders and his father doesn’t know who he is, his parent still has intrinsic value. Even if he is not conscious of it, the parent is embracing the Cross of Christ and is carrying his own Cross; the parent needs his child to carry the Cross with him, not to view his life as a burden and try to “get rid of” that burden.
Ultimately, the value of life is found in the Cross of Christ. The dignity of the unborn, the dignity of family life, the dignity of chastity, the dignity of the elderly, is rooted in the suffering Christ. Only in His wounds will we find strength to carry our crosses and to see our intrinsic value.
“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee: because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”