A challenge was issued to American Catholics through the Bishops pastoral letter of 1998, Living the Gospel of Life that we become leaven, bringing to our culture the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel of life and joy. This challenge remains ever relevant today, “precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the human person are proclaimed and the value of life publicly affirmed, the most basic human right, the right to life, is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death" (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae , 18). The 25th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae , along with the pastoral letter, is the inspiration for this year’s Respect Life theme: Living the Gospel of Life.
The Bishops tell us “we cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of life only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it at all.” These strong words invite us to commit ourselves in our parish ministry in such a way that we invite “all persons and societies to a new life lived abundantly in respect for human dignity.”
Every Catholic is called to be “a missionary of the Good News of human dignity redeemed through the cross.” As we begin Respect Life Month , we can find many wonderful resources to help us do so as individuals, and in our roles serving at a school or parish.
How can we become these missionaries in our parish communities in a polarized culture? Only tireless promotion of the truth about the human person can infuse democracy with the right values. There is no better place to start than promoting the beauty and sanctity of human life, committed to the defense of life in all its stages and in every condition. May we always pray to “see in every human face the face of Christ” and treat them as we would Christ. We are called to Unleash the Gospel of Life in our parishes!
Living the Gospel of Life reads, “God is always ready to answer our prayers for help with the virtues we need to do His will. First and foremost we need the courage and the honesty to speak the truth about human life, no matter how high the cost to ourselves. The great lie of our age is that we are powerless in the face of the compromises, structures and temptations of mass culture.
But we are not powerless. We can make a difference. We belong to the Lord, in Him is our strength, and through His grace, we can change the world.
We also need the humility to listen well to both friend and opponent on the abortion issue, learning from each and forgetting ourselves. We need the perseverance to continue the struggle for the protection of human life, no matter what the setbacks, trusting in God and in the ultimate fruitfulness of the task He has called us to. We need the prudence to know when and how to act in the public arena — and also to recognize and dismiss that fear of acting which postures as prudence itself.
And finally, we need the great foundation of every apostolic life: faith, hope and charity. Faith not in moral or political abstractions, but in the personal presence of God; hope not in our own ingenuity, but in His goodness and mercy; and love for others, including those who oppose us, rooted in the love God showers down on us.”
Mary, patroness of America, renew in us a love for the beauty and sanctity of the human person from conception to natural death; and as your Son gave His life for us, help us to live our lives serving others. Mother of the Church, Mother of our Savior, open our hearts to the Gospel of life, protect our nation, and make us witnesses to the truth.