A Shepherd's Message - Jan. 27, 2015

January 27, 2015

“The Gospel 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.” (Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II, #1)

The opening words of St. John Paul II’s monumental encyclical, written in March 1995, still resound with truth and relevance to this day. At the very core of the Gospel that Jesus Christ preached, of the Gospel that Jesus Christ embodied, is the gift of life. The joy of every human conception and birth and the joy of the full reality of communion with God in Christ Jesus that is the invitation of the Gospel message... yes that joy (and communion) is life!

Human beings are called to a fullness of life that exceeds the dimensions of earthly existence, but this very “supernatural” vocation shows the greatness and inestimable worth of human life even in its earthly dimensions and temporal phase. There is an incomparable value and worth of every human person. It is God alone who grants that worth; no human institution, civil or religious grants personhood. Institutions can only acknowledge personhood as already given to each human being at the moment of conception. The Church herself knows that this announcement, this proclamation of life and the Gospel of human life are received as a gift. The Church cherishes this gift. Every member of the Church must champion this fundamental reality.

St. John Paul II went on to write: “Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh, is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart.” (EV, #3) The proclamation of the Church is urgent today because of the increase of the threats and gravity to human life, especially when life is fragile and defenseless. St. John Paul II brought up the scourge of poverty, violence and war and showed how the destruction of unborn human life had reached epidemic proportions. These are disturbing acts against the human person.

Pope Francis has drawn on these words of his predecessor and has seen a deeper link between the poor and the unborn. They are both among the first victims of a “throw-away society,” an attitude that sees people as disposable when they do not serve the selfish interests of those with more power.

In “Evangelii Gaudium” the Holy Father rededicates the whole Church to a renewed solidarity with those who are poor and marginalized; he includes especially women who are doubly poor because they endure “situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence.” He goes on to write that among the vulnerable for whom the Church desires to care for with particular love are unborn children, the most innocent and defenseless among us. The Pope insists that “it is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life... Not enough has been done to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish...” Such anguish is frequently extreme poverty.

On Jan. 22 every year, the infamous anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision of our nation’s highest court, the Church and millions of people of good will gather to remember the precious gift of human life. The great March for Life in Washington, D.C. finds hundreds of thousands of people, the vast majority of them young people, gathered at the mall near the Washington Monument to rally, pray and witness for human life and to visit the Congress on their concerns. It is truly a grassroots movement and action and will remain active till the human person in all stages of life is respected.

There are those who make policy who debate whether we should reduce abortions by fighting poverty or by passing pro-life laws. It is a false dichotomy. We need to address both issues and face them simultaneously.

I was in Washington on Jan. 22 for the Liturgy that day and the rally. Because of my position as vice president of the Bishops’ Conference, I also had the opportunity to meet with legislators on pro-life issues and on issues related to poverty in our own country. I ask all the members of this local Church to be at prayer and to follow the work of the new Congress on the two issues I have schematically mentioned in this column. Your prayerfulness and conviction on the issues is necessary spiritually; your willingness to get involved in writing Congress on pieces of legislation that deal with these issues shows the power of good citizenship. †