St Paul uses the image of an earthenware jar to describe the Christian life. It is a wonderful image because it captures something of the fragility of human life. Earthenware jars are easily damaged and broken just as is human life. Yet, they are often used to carry precious things, especially water in the very arid regions of the Middle East. Human life can also be used to carry the most precious gift of all, the crucified body of our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

Here the image of Paul comes to its full flowering. What a wonderful way to view ourselves. We are like fragile vessels carrying an unimaginably beautiful treasure within us. The more we realize how fragile we are, the more we are able to turn to Jesus for strength. The greater our fragility and weakness, the more fully the strength of Jesus can shine through us.

 

When we take this image at face value, we can see the dignity and beauty of each human life. Even just the potential for a person to carry Jesus in their heart is enough for us to be able to say that life has absolute dignity which ought never to be harmed or taken away. We can see why the Church does not support capital punishment. The potential for conversion, no matter how remote that possibility may be demands that we do all that we can to protect every human life. To take away a person’s life is to deprive them of the opportunity to one-day welcome Jesus into his or her heart. I for one am not willing to take that sort of responsibility upon myself.

 

The example of Jesus in the Gospels is never to condemn but to forgive. Yes, we must protect society from people who have demonstrated their inability to treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve. However, I do not believe, and nor does the Church, that this gives us the right to take their lives away form them. Love and mercy demand that we give them at least the opportunity to repent and change. Let us be proponents of the cause of life, not death.

 

 

How do I view my weaknesses? Do I see them as opportunities for God’s grace to be all the stronger to make up for my lack of strength? As Paul once said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

Lord Jesus, teach me your way of mercy and love. Help me not to seek revenge but to pray for the conversion of those who hurt me. You did not abandon me to my sin, help me to act similarly with those who sin against me.