Life is a miracle

Respect Life Sunday is celebrated throughout the United States Oct. 5. This year’s theme, “Life is a Miracle,” is a simple yet powerful reminder of an obvious truth. The more science reveals about the first stages of human life, the more we are transported in awe to a microuniverse filled with a meticulous order and perfection that speaks volumes about the One who created it and put it in motion.

Just considering the intricacy of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the molecule that contains the genetic code stored in the nucleus of a cell, gives us a glimpse of the great love that can be perceived behind that precious miracle of creation which is life.

DNA is the combination of four molecules called nucleotides, each one commonly abbreviated by the first letter of its name — adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The sequence of those four nucleotides creates “words” (called genes) made up of combinations of those four “letters” — a microscopic library that determines the structure, function and behavior of each cell.

The cell is the basic unit of life. A single cell can be its own organism — such as an ameba — or can replicate and specialize creating a multi-cellular organism such as a plant, animal or human being.

A DNA molecule is a double stranded twisted molecule (a double helix). It can be envisioned as something like a twisted ladder. The sides of the “ladder” (the strands) are held together by weak chemical bonds that join the rungs (nucleotides). Those bonds can only occur between certain base pairs (A only matches T and G only matches C). Consequently, the order of each single strand can be predicted by the one of the other strand. This is crucial. As cells replicate, those weak bonds between the two strands disappear, creating two separated strands that, in turn, grow into two different helixes as free nucleotides present in the cell become bonded to each strand following that rule, creating two identical DNA molecules. When the cell breaks in two, each helix will remain in one cell, assuring that the “library” of information is available in each and, for that matter, in all cells in a body.

The DNA molecule is subdivided into chromosomes, each with its own characteristics. Each human cell has 46 chromosomes, except for the sexual cells that have only half that number.

New human life is conceived when a male sexual cell — or sperm cell — with 23 chromosomes, unites with a female sexual cell — the egg cell— with the other 23 chromosomes and creates a new, unique DNA sequence. As the fertilized egg divides, that DNA sequence will inform each new cell how to specialize to carry out particular functions, growing to become a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child, an adult.

Life certainly is a miracle. The same God who created the world, creates not just our body with its uniqueness, but puts in us a conscience that allows us to interpret the natural law He has inscribed in our hearts. This conscience enables us to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil.

Our whole being, body and spirit, is engineered to promote life. How sad it is that as society has evolved, we have too often chosen to use our advanced technology to distort the plan of God witnessed in creation.

Using this Sunday as a starting point, let us reflect on the miracle of life and what we can do to defend it.