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We are the People of Life (Commentary on Evangelium Vitae)

 

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director Priests for Life

   
 

The Gospel of Life is not just another document. It is literally a celebration. It celebrates Christ, who is personally the Gospel and the Life. It celebrates humanity, love, and true freedom.


The Church knows how to celebrate. The world has forgotten. The Church knows how to receive and give life and love. In fact, the very meaning of life is to give and receive love (see paragraph #81). But the world has become too preoccupied with usefulness, efficiency, and productivity (#22). The world is too busy with its frantic flight from all suffering and death (#64, #66-67). It flees these because it has forgotten what they mean. It sees them only as things to be avoided and controlled. Ironically, such forgetfulness envelops the world even more in the very things it tries to escape. And in the midst of its slavery to death, the world shouts about freedom, all the while fearing it will be shackled by the one who brings true freedom, namely, Christ.


The world needs "good news", that is, "Evangelium". The document begins, "The Gospel (Evangelium) of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as good news to the people of every age and culture." (#1).


These themes pervade the encyclical. Life is joyful, so it is to be proclaimed (#80-82), celebrated (#83-86) and served (#87-89). The message of life is not optional, or added on to the Gospel, but is at the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel of Life is simply the Gospel of Christ, for He is Life (see #29).


The message is "lovingly received," not created. The world thinks that freedom means, "I create truth; everything depends on my choice." The Supreme Court even said so in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992). Liberty, it said, means "to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." But real freedom cannot be divorced from truth (#19-20). This truth is entrusted to the Church, is valid for all times and places, and cannot admit of exemptions or exceptions. Before the demands of the moral law everyone is absolutely equal (#57).


The Gospel of Life is "good news" because it reveals to us who we are and whose we are. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once remarked that the tragedy of life is not what we suffer, but what we miss. So many forget that we have the dignity of being God's own image, called to relate to Him and share His very life, which is "eternal life" (#1, #37-38). To attack human life, therefore, is to attack God, and to attack Christ, who has joined humanity to God in Himself (see #9, #104). 


The Church is inescapably pro-life (#28) not because it is a "male-dominated hierarchy" but rather because she is feminine. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Mother of believers -- and, in fact, of all humanity (#3). She brings forth her children, the people of life, by the power of the cross (#51, #103) and then sends them into the world to transform it (#79).


The Gospel of Life calls us to be "for life" at all stages and in all circumstances. It calls for an active concern about many tragedies (see #3, #10). This document emphasizes the need to end abortion and euthanasia precisely because these evils are not only happening but are promoted as "rights," are aimed at the most defenseless and vulnerable, and are committed in the very "sanctuary of life," the family, where there should be the most love and care (see #11).


The earth today is covered with innocent blood, which cries out from the ground to the God who made it (see #7-9, Gen. 4:2-16). But thanks be to God, there is another Blood that cries out to heaven more eloquently (see #25, Heb.12: 22,24). The cry of the Blood of Christ brings mercy to those who shed the blood of their brothers and sisters. The shed Blood of Christ teaches the meaning of love, which is to sacrifice oneself for the good of the other person. It reverses the dynamic of the culture of death, which sacrifices the other person for the good of oneself. The Blood of Christ, one drop of which can purify a billion worlds, gives us strength to carry out the "great campaign on behalf of life" which is called for by this encyclical (#95). The pro-life movement itself, in fact, is a sign of hope and victory (#26). The encyclical is in no way behind the times; rather, it is very much ahead of the times, for it sees the time when "death will be no more" (Rev. 21:4 see #105). That time is coming, and that promise is, in a nutshell, the Gospel of Life.

   
 
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