In England we are burdened by endless and soulless reality TV shows which are full of noise and the desperate pursuit of fame. I have so much enjoyed the beautiful peace and depth of Christmas. Yet all that seems to be blaring from the TV is adverts for shop sales and the new series of Big Brother. For me they do nothing more than highlight how sad it is that people no longer consider themselves valuable or unique unless they are being stared at or loudly applauded. Last month a young English boy of 23 flew to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide because he was paralyzed and could no longer play rugby. He felt that without rugby he was without value and my heart breaks for him and his family. We have failed him. What cuts me deeply is that the organisation which promotes this clinical suicide is called Dignitas. It seems such a hurtful lie when dignity can never be achieved through ending another beings life by giving them a concoction of drugs.
The person I always go to when I feel hopeless about the state of the current world is Karol Wojtyla. This man saw the intrinsic value of life- if we will only allow it to touch us. While the beautiful lands of Poland were being used to perpetrate terrible crimes of hate the vocation of a young Wojtyla was blossoming in Krakow. By the end of the Second World War, which had exposed him to one of the worlds most vicious regimes, he was a priest. This young, bright light was already preaching a love that asked people to destroy and reject hatred simply by loving. Wojtyla was able to see beyond man's superficial sheen and destruction to the radical truth of love and sacrifice. Wojtyla saw, and consequently dedicated himself to teaching, that setting the world alight, that becoming the person we were born to be is often found not in adulation or applause but in the tiny actions of life that lead to great chains of events. Veronica dried the face of a man destined to die on a cross (a small act of kindness), Simon was told to help him carry the instrument of his execution (a small act of solidarity), a Bethlehem inn keeper pointed a couple to a manger where there was some room for them (small gesture of compassion). Small events in a great chain that we are still trying to understand the deep and mystic meaning of. This is life.
It is not to say that looking nice and feeling good is pointless but simply that if your whole life is centred on a need to be accepted on the basis of looking acceptable then we have let down a whole generation of human beings. Pope John Paul II bore witness at every stage of his life to the divine dignity of all human life but perhaps his most profound witness was at the end of his life when he was never more fragile...and never more beautiful.
It is not how other human beings see us, it is not even how we see ourselves that reveals how unique we are-it is how God sees us; each of us a reflection of Christ. It is this living refection which makes each of us equally valuable and equally unique for we are all our own fragment of the great reflection of Christ and our own part in the body of the Church. Being weak and vulnerable does not make us less valuable, on the contrary by exposing our weakness to the world- as John Paul II did at the end of his life- we have the power to reveal our true interior strength and love.
You are loved
You are unique
You are beautiful
And whatever your value in the world of men you have a deeper inestimable value, which can never be diminished or destroyed.
Real dignity means recognising this is true of every living being - especially those who do not have a voice.