"Sing for the Babies"
Today there are many challenges that we face as a human family. In any part of the world on any given day, some grave injustice is committed. The gravest of these injustices are those crimes that take the lives of innocent human beings. In fact, no other crime has taken as many lives as abortion has and thus can properly be classified as the greatest destroyer of peace and justice. In the United States alone, 1.6 million children in the womb are aborted. The disrespect for the unborn has paved the way for other heinous crimes, such as euthanasia or mercy killing, increased rape and violence, murder committed by young teenagers and an increase in the number of wars among nations, to name a few. All this sorrow can lead us to despair and ask ourselves, how can we get back on track, morally, as a people? Unless we regain our respect for human life in the womb and see them as gifts from God, we will only disrespect every other life among us. In addition, until we begin to see the smallest and most innocent of human, as gifts from God, we risk extinction. If we see others, as well as, ourselves as creatures of God, made in his image, we will then respect life and view it as sacred. Philosophically, we can come to this conclusion based on the natural law that everyone has a right to life. Indeed, I believe it is in this realm of reason, that we stand the greatest chance of conveying the message to respect life, especially to non-believers. Nonetheless, God is all powerful, and through his Holy Word many can be converted. My aim in this paper is to show how sacred each human life is, especially in the womb, according to Gods holy Psalms. Furthermore, God opposes the deliberate killing of innocent human life and His justice will be made manifest in the face of injustice. It is my hope that in writing on the topic of the sacredness of life in the Psalms, we will all grow in our love of neighbor, unborn or born, and even more importantly, in our love for God, who has made us all in his image and likeness.
Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.
God made all the creatures of the earth, but man is certainly the masterpiece of His creation. In Gen 1:27 we read, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." After God had created all other things, he made man in his image, in a divine image. No other creature was made in such a special way. In fact, after man was created, chapter 1, in Genesis, ends by saying, "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good (Gen 1:31)." Up until man was created, the day ended with everything God had made being found good. After man was created, God found creation very good. Humanity did nothing to merit this blessing of being made in the image of God. It is solely a blessing and a gift of God to be made in such a way. God could have chosen not to make us in his image, but for some reason, God found it very good to make us all in His divine image. Psalm 8 picks up on this idea of being made in the image of God.
"What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet: Ps 8:5-7
The Psalmist asks the question, "What are humans that you are mindful of them?" How could we have been made in the image of God? Why were we made in His image? Why humans and not the moon, sun, birds, sea creatures, etc.?. "Man is but a puny creature in comparison with the moon and stars, yet God has made him lord of creation. Job makes use of the same language in his argument that he is unworthy of Gods attention (Kissane, p.34)." Job struggled with this question of worthiness before God as well. "What is man, that you make much of him, or pay him any heed? You observe him with each new day and try him at every moment! [Job 7:17-18]" What is man? That is the question that has boggled the minds of many.
The Psalmist goes on in verse 6: "Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor." In a world, in which so many new wacky religions arise, we can often see individuals claiming to be divine. However, we all at one point will have to come to the conclusion that there is a God, and we are not Him! Humanity has been made less than God and certainly are not gods. However, we have been "crowned with glory and honor." Humanity holds a special place in the order of creation. God has blessed us all with his image and thus has crowned us with His glory and honor.
"So the perennial question "What is man?" finds a poetic answer in Nature and the creation story, and in mans place in Gods heart. "What a piece of work is man! "- midway between nothing and deity, abject and august, dust divinely cared for. This is the finest answer ever given until Pilate pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the man!"
In psalm and gospel alike, man finds greatness only within his proper frame, Gods majestic purposes. Deny God, and man dwindles to degradation, as modern secular humanism has discovered (White, p.35-36)."
This quote from R.E.O White is packed with truths that need to be expounded upon. Jesus, of course, shows us the fullness of the image of God. It is within him that humanity and divinity are united in one divine person. This hypostatic union gives us the image of God in its fullness. Unfortunately, as the author points out, many have denied God and as a result, humanity has dwindled. We have lost our sense of the divine image we have been made in, thus paving the way for such horrors as abortion. However, before we look at this problem, we must ask what mans place in creation is.
If we are less than God, but crowned with glory and honor, what is our role in creation? Once again, Genesis sheds light on this question. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth. (Gen 1:28)." Man has been given dominion over all other creatures. We are stewards of Gods creation. That is why the Psalmist can say in 8:7 . "You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet." We have been crowned with glory and honor and as a result, have also been given the right to rule over all creation. We must respect what God has made with his own hands and not abuse this stewardship. Unfortunately, even this aspect today is a problem. Pollution, animal cruelty, and wasting natural resources are all problems due to man abusing his rule over creation. God is always the supreme ruler over all creation, but he has given us the role of stewards in His divine plan. However, what are the limits of this stewardship? In particular, what dominion, if any, do we have over other humans? We have all been made in the image of God, regardless of our ethnicity or sex. No one person has the right to abuse or control another person against their will. History has seen heinous examples of this abuse of power in the problem of slavery, Nazi Germany and even our modern day holocaust of abortion. Certainly, laws and governments exist to control society and even detain criminals who are a threat to society. However, we do not have the right to abuse or kill another innocent human being against their free will. Many of us have heard others say, "mind your own business" while defending abortion. However, abortion is every bit, our business. As stewards of Gods creation ,we are our brothers keeper. The LORD asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper? [Gen 4:9]". The answer is a resounding, yes! If our neighbor was abusing their child, would we say mind your own business. We would immediately investigate and take action by calling the police. In the same way, its our business if our brothers and sisters are being killed in abortion facilities. God will ask us where our brothers and sisters are. What will we say? Let us now take a look at what the Psalmist says about children, especially those in the womb.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb.
Before I look at Psalm 139, which is the strongest argument for respecting the preborn, I would like to examine Ps. 127 first. Psalm 127 gives us an insight into ancient thought of children. Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward (127:3).
"The greatest desire of a Hebrew husband is that his marriage may be blessed with sons whether or not he has children, and more especially sons, depends upon the blessing of God. Sons are the reward of piety (Leslie, p. 425)."
Children were seen as blessings of God upon your family. Sterility was seen as a curse in the Hebrew world (E. Vitae, p.78). This ancient thought, shows how valuable children were in the Hebrew family.
" children are a divine gift. This is a notion that runs throughout the Old Testament and is in danger of being lost in the modern world when it is viewed in the abstract or as a general statement. The problems of over population and unwanted children, even the painful and moral dilemma of abortion, seem to press upon the possibility that the gift and blessing has been turned into a curse (Miller, p.134-35)."
Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened in our modern day. Children viewed as a blessing and gift from God, have become a curse or burden in todays society. Many would rather practice contraception, eliminating God from the procreative act, than be open to His divine will. Of course, when contraception fails, the same mentality exists and an unwanted child is viewed as a curse and thus can be eliminated according to some. Our blessed Mother gives us a beautiful view of motherhood as her cousin Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb [Luke 1:42]." Blessed is the fruit of your womb! The child was not seen as a curse, despite Marys situation of being poor, young, and unwed. This child, our Savior, was a blessing and gift, a gift to all mankind! He was a not a lump of tissue, as some may believe, but a real person. In fact, during Marys visitation, John leaps in the womb of Elizabeth. When was the last time we heard of a lump of tissue leaping? Thank God, Mary said yes to life 2000 years ago! Humanity must come to see pregnancy as a blessing and gift or the injustice of abortion will continue. The smallest humans are gifts and blessings from God and are human in every aspect. Let us now look at Ps 139 to paint an even clearer picture of the child in the womb as completely human and made in Gods image.
"you formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb."
Here in this psalm we arrive at a strong defense of human life in the womb. It is a tragedy, that we have to defend such a scientifically known fact. Reasonably, when two human beings, presumably married, come to together and procreate, that which is conceived can only be of the human species. For example, an acorn becomes an oak tree. An acorn is simply at an earlier stage in development, but its the same species and substance as an oak tree. The same holds true for an embryo or fetus becoming an infant, teenager and adult.
"The changes occurring between implantation, a six week embryo, a six month fetus, a one week-old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation. The majority of our group could find no point in the time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life (Alcorn, p.43)."
This would seem to be common sense, but unfortunately this must be explained and taught to many people who have bought into the worlds rhetoric and lies. Much of the debate on abortion becomes a game in semantics. If you change the way people, (as some have by calling the unborn, "products of conception"), people begin to change the way they think and disregard human life at its most vulnerable stage. Scientifically, a child has everything from day one of conception. " the information which will guide the development of this being is already present within the DNA in the nucleus of the zygote, and the zygote is actively growing (Lee, p. 71)." After conception, the child only grows bigger and bigger, The entire genetic code is in the tiny DNA strand. It is simply foolish to think that we can be one substance and change into another. Even early philosophers, like the great Aristotle, agree with this: "As Aristotle noted long ago, there are no degrees of being a substance or concrete thing: one either is or is not a horse, one either is or not an amoeba (Lee, p.71)." Philosophically, we have no choice if we are to be reasonable humans than to realize that the child in the womb is human.
In Psalm 139, the Psalmist understood life in the womb to be human. "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb." To be formed, simply means that there is matter to form. Furthermore, if you have matter with form, you have a substance. As we have seen, no substance can become another substance naturally. What a thing is, is what it always is, in the realm of substance. Accidents, such as size and color, change but substance doesnt. The Psalmist speaks of being knit in his mothers womb. The Psalmist states that Yahweh knit together and fashioned his very being. As one might knit a blanket, so Yahweh knit each of us in the womb. Yahweh is seen as maternal, nurturing us in the womb.
"Psalm 139:13-16 paints a graphic picture of the intimate involvement of God with a preborn person. God created Davids inmost being, not at birth but before birth. David says to his Creator, "You knit me together in my mothers womb." Each person, regardless of his percentage or handicap, has not been manufactured on a cosmic assembly line, but has been personally knitted together by God in the womb. All the days of his life have been planned out by God before any have come to be (Alcorn, p.238)."
There is a personal intimacy between the Creator and the one knit together. Here we can see the Creator crowning us with glory and honor. The Creator, Yahweh, personally knits us together in his image and likeness. In fact, the Psalmist sounds much like the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jer 1:5)."
Jeremiah, like the Psalmist, has a sense of the mystery of God granting us a design or plan for the future. Personally knitting us together, God created us for a certain purpose and plan in life. "The poet sees himself not as an accident, but as one known, brought into being, given an allotted time, seen and encompassed by the everlasting God (Miller, p.148)." Indeed, no human is an accident, but everyone has a purpose in this life. Its unfortunate that many think this way when they hear that a woman is pregnant. Too often than not, we observe sadness or despair when one finds out they are pregnant. Pregnancy can be a difficult time, but we must hold it up once again as a cause for rejoicing. If we rediscover the sacredness and blessing of a pregnancy, people will begin to view each child as having a purpose and not being an accident. Every child, even those conceived out of a marital covenant, have a purpose and are gifts from God. "Yet more, Gods eyes saw the deeds that he would do, and in a marvelous foreknowledge set them down in His book of life with his days all accounted for (Leslie, p.312)."
Our current pontiff, Pope John Paul II uses Psalm 139 several times in his encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae". In fact, he states the reason why there are no explicit calls to protect the unborn in the Scriptures, is "that the mere possibility of harming, attacking, or actually denying life in these circumstances is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the People of God (E. Vitae, p. 78)." To harm the unborn should be foreign to all of us who are a people of God, but unfortunately it is not. Every year in the US, 1.6 million babies are aborted. We are killing our future and justifying it the name of choice and autonomy. We must return to viewing life in the womb as sacred, as the faithful people of God did in the past. God wants us all to be stewards of these little ones in the wombs as he cares for them paternally.
"All human beings, from their mothers womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the book of life(E. Vitae, #61,p.109)."
Our Holy Father states here that God has a plan for this child in the womb. The child of today is an adult of tomorrow. These children are our future doctors, artists, and musicians. Just imagine if some of the famous people in history had not been given a chance to live. Our world would be without many medical cures, inventions and masterpieces of art and music. Alexander Pope was born a dwarf and later crippled but turned out to be one of the greatest writers. Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus, gave us 3 laws of motion and discovered gravity. There are many famous historical figures who had handicaps but still had a purpose and plan from God. The Holy Father urges us to see every person as "a reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image (E Vitae, #83, p. 148). Evangelium Vitae reminds us that every person is made in the image of the Creator and that same Creator has knit personally every human in the womb.
"So the Lord grew angry with his people"
After examining a few Psalms and seeing how they view the child in the womb, we can clearly see that God values each child. In fact, as gifts and blessings bestowed upon humanity, these children are all numbered, each having a plan and purpose in life. What is Gods reaction to our contemporary situation. We can assume that he certainly is not pleased with our performance. Furthermore, in reading Psalm 106, we will see that he is probably outright angry, with the blatant disrespect for human life.
Psalm 106 : 35 39, "has to do with sins committed in Canaan, the root sin being that of unholy compromise. According to all ancient traditions of J, E, D, and P respectively, the Israelites were not to make treaties with the Canaanites, but were to drive them out so that they would not be influenced by the Canaanites, absorbing their ways, their idols, and cultic practices. Child sacrifice, the blood purge of innocent men and immorality rooting in idolatrous religious rites are especially mentioned (Leslie, p. 169)."
In Psalm 106:35-39, we see that the Israelites mingled with the Canaanites and imitated them in all their ways. The Canaanites were descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. Canaan, quite possibly, was the offspring of an incestuous act committed by Ham and Hams mother. The Canaanites were founded upon an immoral act and ironically they were known to be an evil and immoral people. One of the abominable deeds they performed was that of child sacrifice. The Psalmist tells us that the Israelites adopted this horror and shed "innocent blood, the blood of their own sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, desecrating the land with bloodshed (38-40)" How did the Israelites come to adopt such horrible deeds? How could a faithful people turn on their own young and sacrifice them to the Canaanite idols? The answer, very simply, they forgot Yahweh. They forgot the love he had for them as a people in His covenant. Does that sound familiar? Today, we have adopted heinous immoral actions. We, like the Israelites, have turned to child sacrifice. In the US, we sacrifice 1.6 million children to false gods, gods called self. Furthermore, the recent debate on late term abortion shows us that infanticide is not above us. When a doctor, (and I use that term very loosely), jabs scissors in the base of a childs skull, who is being delivered alive, he has committed infanticide. Call it what you want, "choice", "a constitutional right", or even "health", but in the end, before God it is murder of the innocent. In verse 40, we read that "the Lord grew angry with his people, abhorred his own heritage." He turned them over to their enemies but fortunately there was good news. [Psa 106:45] For their sake he remembered his covenant and relented in his abundant love," Despite their unfaithfulness, God had pity on them. Yahweh remembered his Covenant when his own broke it. The love of God was manifested to his people. In fact, the fullness of that love was made manifest when the Father sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile the world to the Father. We have been recipients of that love, but yet we like the Israelites continue to search for greener pastures. We continue to disregard the new covenant established by Jesus Christ. How long will the Lord have patience for this disregard? How long will he allow the innocent to be killed in the name of choice? Mysterious are these questions and all we can do is hope and trust in Gods infinite love and mercy. The same love and mercy he had on Israel.
"For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help."
Finally, it would be appropriate to look at one last Psalm, Psalm 72:12-14. Here the Psalmist speaks of Yahwehs justice. He does not forget his beloved. The unborn are poor and oppressed and because of this, God will hear their cry. He will hear their cry when the world is deaf to them. He will also hear the cry of those who defend the sacredness of life and are persecuted for doing so. These faithful are truly oppressed, because they suffer for the sake of righteousness. They suffer for the sake of the Gospel of Life. Westermann suggests that a "future reference suits v.v 12-14, where the whole emphasis falls on the concern of the saviour king for the weak and the needy (Westermann, p. 64)." Indeed, there is a concern for a king to save the needy. However, the king has already come. Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate, is and always will be, the king of all ages. Jesus came to bring peace to the world, a world that rejected him and continues to reject and persecute him by oppressing his disciples who faithfully stand up for the innocent. In verse 14, the psalmist reminds us that, "precious is their blood in his sight." The blood of the innocent, unborn or born, is precious in the eyes of God. It was this blood that the Creator has formed and knit in the womb to create a human in His image.
We are a faced with a great challenge today. On the eve of the next millenium, we are challenged to proclaim the sacredness of each and every life. Almost 2000 years after the Word became incarnate, we still have not truly understood the message brought by that Word. Jesus came into the world to reconcile us to the Father so we might have eternal life. We were reconciled because God, who has made us all in his image, loves us too much to disregard us. A love that knit and formed each of us in our mothers wombs. A love that crowned us with glory and honor. A love that continues to be made manifest in the conception of children, new gifts and blessings. God has not forgotten his people. The infinite mercy and love of Yahweh continues to remain steadfast upon all of us. However, our love for one another has not remained such. In a world filled with so much violence, the Psalms once again need to be read. Once again, we need to hear, "you knit me in my mothers womb". Once again, we need to hear, "Children are a gift from the Lord." Finally, we need to hear that God has "crowned them with glory and honor." Our world is in dire need of conversion. A conversion toward the Creator of all the unborn. Through Sacred Scripture and in a special way in the Psalms, God has spoken to his people. Through these Psalms, God says to all of us today, respect life. We are called to respect each and every life because they have been made in the image of the Creator. Let us sing, as the Psalmist did, of the sacredness every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Let us sing for the babies!
John Sistare, Psalms and Wisdom Literature, 1/22/99
Seminarian, North American College, Angelicum, Rome
Alcorn, Randy. Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments, Eternal Perspective Ministries, USA, 1992.
John Paul II. Evangelium Vitae, Random House, NY, 1995.
Kissane, Msgr. Edward J. The Book of Psalms, vol. I (1-72), Browne and Nolan Limited, Dublin, 1953.
Lee, Patrick. Abortion and Unborn Human Life. Catholic University of America Press, DC, 1996.
Leslie, Elmer, A. The Psalms, Abingdon Cokesbury Press, NY
Miller, Patrick D. Jr., Interpreting the Psalms, Fortress Press, USA, 1986.
Westermann, Claus. The Living Psalms, T & T Clark, MI, 1989.
White, R.E.O. A Christian handbook to the Psalms, Wm. B Eerdman Pub Co., MI, 1984.
John Sistare, Seminarian, North American College, Angelicum, Rome, January, 1999
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