Receiving More Than We Give

Our 9:00 a.m. Eucharist today began with a stately "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" and concluded with a rousing "Shall We Gather At The River."

Afterwards we gathered, not at the river, but at the parish center for coffee. An eighty-year-old, involved in prison ministry, collared me to discuss the homily (not, I confess, a frequent occurrence -- the talk tends to focus upon the Sox or the Pats, much to this native New Yorker's discomfort).

As we were chatting, I saw that a teenager wanted to speak. I beckoned him over and was rewarded with such an outpouring of joy as I have not experienced in some time. He was overflowing with gratitude for the love of God he experiences in the Eucharist, for how much Jesus means to him, for the blessings of family and home.

In the face of his joy, issues of hymns or chant, novus ordo or vetus ordo, seemed, while not unimportant, decidedly secondary. I have seldom experienced such radiance as I did this morning in the face of this Down syndrome teenager.

Was it chance or Providence, then, that led me to read this evening in the latest Commonweal Timothy Shriver's article, "Silent Eugenics." Here in part is what he writes:

Those who live with and care for people withDown syndrome are able to do this because they know something that thetechnicians of genetic testing may need to learn: in giving to oneanother, we get back far more than we give. And in acceptingunconditionally the full dignity of every human being, we oftendiscover our own. In this way, the parents of children with Downsyndrome embrace the always-unfulfilled aspiration of our nationsfounding-that we are all equal, capable, worthy of a chance, no matterwhat. But does our nation still believe that?

At this moment, the stakes are high. For makeno mistake: we are in the midst of a silent resurgence of eugenics. Theidea that each of us has equal human value regardless of background,wealth, religion, or disability-a cornerstone value of both ourreligious traditions and our political heritage-is at risk today.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.

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