In the words of Paul VI, the Church ‘exists in order to evangelize’. An integral part of her Gospel is the Gospel of life. We are the people of life and for life and have been sent as a people and individually ‘to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it…’
In essence: ‘Jesus is the only Gospel: we have nothing further to say or any other witness to bear. To proclaim Jesus is itself to proclaim life.’ The Gospel of Life has ‘a marvellous newness since it is one with Jesus who ‘makes all things new’ and therefore ‘reveals the sublime heights to which the dignity of the human person is raised through Grace.’ As St. Gregory of Nyssa writes140: ‘Once [man] is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, …man surpasses his nature: mortal he becomes immortal…’ [Let us note that this Divine sonship refers to Supernatural Grace and not simply to humanity] This gives birth to gratitude and joy which impel us to share this message with all. The core of this Gospel is: ‘The proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with Himself… It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life, and his bodiliness. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of His love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person… It is the call for a ‘sincere gift of self’. It entails that ‘human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable… Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern. The meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love.’
The proclamation of the Gospel of Life falls especially to those who have a teaching ministry in the Church, above all the bishops, but also all theologians, pastors, teachers, and catechists. Sound doctrine must be taught in theological faculties, seminaries, and Catholic institutions, and without dissent, compromise, or ambiguity ‘which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking’.
The Gospel of Life must be celebrated by fostering a contemplative outlook, seeing in life ‘its deeper meaning… its utter gratuitousness, its beauty, and its invitation to freedom and responsibility… discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person His living image…perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue, and solidarity’. It must be celebrated by celebrating the God of life, the God who gives life, in our prayer and in every person; by celebrating the Sacraments; by daily living filled with self-giving love for others, even to the point of heroism, to the total gift of self that manifests the mystery of the Cross. Special mention should be made here of the ‘brave mothers who devote themselves to their own families without reserve’.
The Gospel of Life must be served by works of charity to the suffering; by showing ‘care for all life and for the life of every-one’; by promoting ‘centres for natural methods of regulating fertility, marriage and family counselling agencies’, and centres to assist pregnant women and foster new life; by establishing communities for the afflicted and the elderly, hospitals, clinics, and convalescent homes, all of which acknowledge and understand suffering, pain, and death ‘in their human and specifically Christian meaning’. Such projects require the involvement of persons committed to the Gospel of Life in the spheres of health care, spiritual assistance, voluntary work, politics and the legislature. With regard to the growth of population there must be established ‘a true economy of communion and sharing of goods in both the national and international order. This is the only way to respect the dignity of persons and families, as well as the authentic cultural patrimony of peoples’. In fact ‘a family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social politics’.
‘Within the ‘people of life and the people for life’ the family has a decisive responsibility.’ It is called to ‘guard reveal and communicate love’ and to be ‘the sanctuary of life’. As the domestic church it is itself called to ‘proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of Life’, revealing in procreation that ‘human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift’. It proclaims this Gospel in the manner in which it raises and educates its children; it celebrates this Gospel in daily prayer and in the family’s daily life of love; it serves it by solidarity as regards adoption, by participation in social and political life, and by involvement with the elderly.
What is urgently required is a ‘great campaign in support of life’, starting from a formation of consciences on the worth of human life. To this end it is vital ‘to re- establish the essential connection between life and freedom’, to understand that ‘Love as a sincere gift of self is what gives the life and freedom of the person their truest meaning’; it is vital to acknowledge that man is ‘a creature to whom God has granted being and life as a gift and a duty’. A work of education is necessary, especially in sexuality and love, involving a training in chastity and responsible procreation and in the cultivation of an authentic understanding of suffering and death in the light of the Redemption, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
In short there must be an advance from having to being, from things to persons, from indifference and rejection to concern for, and acceptance of, others. Important roles must be taken by educators, intellectuals, those in the mass media, and by women promoting a ‘new feminism’, reconciling people with life, and bearing witness to love through their acceptance of every human being, which they have learnt in their experience of pregnancy. Women who have undergone an abortion are called to repentance and to seek God’s mercy; to an eloquent defence of everyone’s right to life; and to a renewed commitment to life by accepting the birth of other children or ‘by welcoming and caring for those most in need of some-one to be close to them’. Prayer and fasting are necessary for spreading the Gospel of Life, which is for all and is an indispensable condition for democracy and peace.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is ‘the one who accepted ‘Life’ in the name of all and for the sake of all’. ‘She is the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.’ Just as the Church’s motherhood is achieved in tension with the forces of evil and darkness as we read in the book of Revelation, so the Blessed Virgin lived her motherhood amidst suffering. The ‘yes’ of the Annunciation culminates in Calvary where Mary becomes the mother of us all.
The child whom the dragon of Revelation wishes to devour is a figure of Christ and of every man, especially every helpless baby whose life is threatened, since, to repeat the phrase quoted at the beginning of the Encyclical, (regarding which, see note) ‘by his Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every person’. For this reason ‘rejection of human life… is really a rejection of Christ… Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me’ (St. Mt 18.5). ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (St. Mt.25.40).
‘The Angel’s Annunciation to Mary is framed by these reassuring words: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary’ and ‘With God nothing will be impossible’ (St. Luke 1 30,37)… Mary is a living word of comfort for the Church in the struggle against death.’ In fact the Church assures us that ‘The Lamb who was slain is alive, bearing the marks of His Passion in the splendour of the Resurrection… and proclaims, in time and beyond, the power of life over death.’ In our pilgrimage towards the New Jerusalem where ‘death shall be no more’ we look to Mary ‘who is for us a sign of sure hope and solace’.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.