One night I was on the subway in Boston, on my way home from school. I was probably reading or saying my breviary, but in any case I was minding my own business. Some guy, seeing my habit I guess, came up to me and nastily asked, "What do you get out of this?"
Turning it back on him, I said, "I'm supposed to get something?" Probably not the most pastoral response, but it was late and I was tired.
But for me this exchange reveals the spiritual sickness at the root of our society's disregard for human life. Instead of placing ourselves in the fundamental stance of gratitude and awe for the fact of our existence, for the grace of our creaturehood, we look instead for what we can get out of existing. When it comes to finding ourselves as human beings in the world, we become basically acquisitive instead of basically grateful. (This happens just as easily in the spiritual life as it does for materialistic folks; we want more and better prayer, deeper recollection, more certain faith, etc., instead of simply being grateful for grace.)
In the state of this spiritual sickness, then, things that can be gotten become more important than the basic fact of existing and living. Commodities, both spiritual and material, become more important than life. And so any number of things that can be had, like time, convenience, money, pleasure, revenge, oil fields, etc., start to take precedence over life itself.
This cultural illness, which John the Paul the Great called the "culture of death," continues to grow and metastisize in our society. Offenses against the sanctity of life become more and more acceptable. Current examples include the tolerance of torture and the mainstreaming of pornography.
Therefore it is required of us Christans, who believe and stand in awe of our nature as creatures of God through his Word, to struggle against the spiritual sickness of our time. We must first of all do our best to form ourselves in an attitude of awe and gratitude for our own lives and existence. We must learn that the evident fact of our being alive reveals a grace of God more important than anything we will or can "get out of" life. And then we must learn to treat everyone else the same way, no matter how disagreeable or even despicable, as persons that God has created on purpose.