Reflections on Evangelium Vitae by J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.
In chapter four of Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II issues a challenge. As a way of putting the encyclicals message into practice, he asks us to carry out a mission: to be "a people of life and for life" (#78).
We are people of life because God has saved us through Christ. Interiorly renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are to act according to this gift of "eternal life."
Our task, therefore, is to become people for life. Sustained by Christs love, we are to take part in his prophetic, priestly, and royal mission of bringing salvation to the world. Both as individuals and as a church community, the Lord entrusts us with proclaiming, celebrating, and serving the Gospel of life. PROCLAMATION To preach the good news of Jesus is to proclaim life. "We need to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman," writes the pope, "and to make it penetrate every part of society" (#80).
What is the core of this Gospel? It is the "affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life and his bodiliness" (#81). In other words, the Gospel of life heralds that human life, as Gods gift, is sacred and inviolable.
Everyone in the church is called to preach this good news about life. Bishops, priests, parents, catechists, teachers--indeed, all Christians--play a role in proclaiming "how the Christian message fully reveals what man is and the meaning of his being and existence" (#82).
In carrying out this "prophetic" mission, we are to guard against "proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life faithfully presented and interpreted by the magisterium" (#82). Even if faced with hostility and unpopularity, the people for life must reject any compromise with an anti-life mentality.
CELEBRATION "To celebrate the Gospel of life means to celebrate the God of life, the God who gives life" (#84). He alone is the wellspring of existence. With gratitude for the beauty and grandeur of this gift, the people for life fulfill their "priestly" mission by their contemplation, prayer, liturgical celebrations, and day-to-day activity.
In the first place, John Paul encourages us to adopt "a contemplative outlook." This entails the appreciation of every human life as a "wonder" created by God (Ps 139:14). "It is the outlook," he says, "of those who do not presume to take possession of reality, but instead accept it as a gift" (#83). When individuals cultivate an attitude of religious awe before the mystery of life, they are drawn to honor the face of Christ in everyone.
Daily prayer inspires us to praise God for the greatness of his works, especially for human beings who are the images of his glory. The celebration of the sacraments intensifies divine life in us. They nourish us with "the spiritual strength necessary to experience life, suffering and death in their fullest meaning" (#84).
We celebrate the Gospel of life "above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others" (#86). Sometimes in truly remarkable ways, though most often in gestures of "everyday heroism," the people for life express their praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life. Such actions belong to the "spiritual worship" owed to God (Rom 12: 1).
SERVICE As sharers in Christs "royal" mission, we promote human life through works of charity. Individual acts of mercy, volunteer work, social activity, and political commitment all manifest the "faith working through love" (Gal 5:6) of the people for life.
By their acts of charity Christians take care of life. Jesus disciples are called, says the Holy Father, "to become neighbors to everyone." Moreover, they are "to show special favor to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need" (#87).
Committed Christians serve life without bias or discrimination. At every stage and in every situation, human life is precious. They care for "all life and for the life of everyone" (#87). Whether paid workers or volunteers, the people for life carry out their ministry through various institutions and agencies: in counseling centers, special homes and communities, clinics, and hospitals.
Because of the inroads made by the culture of death, the pope believes that the service to life should be realistic and effective. Individuals, families, movements, and associations share the task of forming a culture of life. He appeals to everyone for help in building "a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced" (#90).
John Paul begs public officials not to pass anti-life laws which undermine societys moral roots. He also recognizes that life cannot be defended merely by legislation. The underlying causes of todays attacks on life must be unmasked, so that the people for life can take steps to eliminate them.
Only a common effort of all people for life--believers and non-believers alike--will lead to a "civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life" (# 106).
This is the tenth in a series on Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life, by Father J. Michael Miller, who writes for Our Sunday Visitor. ©1998 Our Sunday Visitor. Reprinting rights purchased for the San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046), May 1998, and on sfSpirit.com by donations to the Friends of the Good News.
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