How much is the life of one human being worth?

Mary Jones is a 58-year-old childless widow who suffers from loneliness and low self-esteem. She takes decreasing pleasure in bingo, dining out alone and watching television. In a desperate attempt to gain some sense of worth, she goes to a filming session of “Antiques Roadshow” and submits herself for appraisal.

Appraiser: Good morning, ma’am. What have you brought for me today? 

Mary Jones: Myself! 

Appraiser: Yourself? 

Jones: Yes. And as you can see from my name tag, I am Mary Jones. 

Appraiser: But this is most unusual. Ordinarily, people bring along an artifact of some kind to be appraised. 

Jones: I would like you to appraise me. What do you think I am worth?

Appraiser: Well, this is highly irregular. You must understand that I am trained in appraising objects and assigning them a monetary value. 

Jones: I have traveled a great distance to be here today. Please cooperate with me. I need to know how much I am worth. 

Appraiser: All right, if you insist. I surmise that you are not on the sunny side of 50. This means that you are in decline. The nasty thing about human beings is that they do not, like a good work of art, appreciate over time. From a strict market-value perspective, after 50, they are not worth as much as are their possessions. You should get some life insurance. Then, of course, there is the horrible specter of death. I’m afraid that for most human beings, the grave, not a museum, is their unfortunate destiny. 

Jones: Then you are saying that I am not worth very much! 

Appraiser: I am sorry to disappoint you, but this is the way it is. Now if you had some interesting artifact or bring ... 

Jones: Never mind! Can I have a second opinion? 

Appraiser: I have no objection to that. Let me find someone who is not busy. Oh, how about that gentleman over there, the one with the ... Roman collar, I believe you call it? 

Jones: That is fine with me. 

Appraiser: Oh, reverend! Could you come over here? This lady would like you to give her a second opinion concerning her worth. 

Priest: I’d be happy to oblige. How may I help you, Mrs. Jones? I hope I am not being presumptuous, but I noticed you are wearing a wedding ring. 

Jones: Delighted to meet you, reverend. My husband died five years ago and my life is empty. I feel as though I am of little or no worth. 

Priest: I am sorry about your husband. But, my dear lady, you should not feel the way you do. You have been created by a loving God. You bear his image. You are of inestimable worth. 

Jones: Thank you for saying that. You are very kind. But I don’t feel that way. 

Priest: When I was in the seminary, training to become a priest, I read a lot of St. Augustine. I even learned a little Latin. One phrase of his has always stayed with me. It is my favorite: “Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem.” It is addressed to God: “Because you loved me, you made me lovable.”

Jones: Well, that’s a beautiful phrase, but I certainly don’t feel very lovable. 

Priest: God is love. Love begets love. Because love created you, love was poured into your soul. Love is the main ingredient of your personality. These artifacts you see all around you are valued in dollars and cents. The best that can ever happen to any of them is to be housed in a museum. But human beings can spend eternity in heaven. 

Jones: Even so, these artifacts command a good price. 

Priest: But they have no life. They are unable to love. They can’t even smile. We are all lovable, so why not let your love peep through, if only through a smile? 

Jones: Now see what you’ve done. You’ve got me smiling. I’m embarrassed.

Priest: Don’t be embarrassed. Be loving. Then you will free yourself from your solitude and find joy in the company of loving friends. A price tag indicates cost. But a smile indicates worth. In our world we seem to know the price of everything and the worth of nothing. 

Jones: May I ask you a question? 

Priest: By all means. 

Jones: What are you doing here, in this market where things are prized more than people?

Priest: Isn’t it obvious? God sent me to meet you. You must be pretty important. 

Jones: I wish I could believe that. 

Priest: You will come to believe it more and more with each passing day when you express love to others and realize that you are a fountain of love.

Jones: A “fountain of love,” eh?  

Priest: That’s right. You just got a little clogged up. 

Jones: Are you a priest or a plumber? 

Priest: Maybe a little of both. And maybe you’re right in taking my image of the fountain literally. 

Jones: Why? 

Priest: I can see tears in your eyes. 

Jones: Could they be indicating my baptism? 

Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor of Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut.