Fulfilling the Gospel of Life
1/30/2011by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II's great pro-life encyclical, we read, "The Gospel of life is not simply a reflection, however new and profound, on human life. Nor is it merely a commandment aimed at raising awareness and bringing about significant changes in society. Still less is it an illusory promise of a better future. The Gospel of life is something concrete and personal, for it consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus" (29).
These words radically and decisively deepen our understanding of what it means to be pro-life. Clearly, the pope was not saying that one must be Christian in order to be opposed to abortion or euthanasia. The obligation of the law to protect the innocent arises from principles of natural justice, which we are all obligated to follow, regardless of religious belief.
The obligation of the Christian, though, goes beyond justice. Those who follow Christ are called not only to obey the law, but also to fulfill it.
John Paul II continues, "Through the words, the actions and the very person of Jesus, man is given the possibility of 'knowing' the complete truth concerning the value of human life. … In Christ, the Gospel of life is definitively proclaimed and fully given" (29). Thus, we know that the value of every human person is revealed by the love of Jesus Christ. We might go on to say that the value of every human life is measured by Christ's love and that Christ's love is inseparable from each of our lives.
Later in his encyclical, the pope writes, "It is precisely in the 'flesh' of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ" (104). Christ's loving embrace of every human being is so intense that he is truly revealed in and through each person. According to John Paul II, this "demanding truth" is revealed to us when the Lord says, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me" (Mt 18:5).
The "demanding truth" of Christ's presence in each of us compels Christians to be uncompromisingly pro-life. With St. Paul, we may truly say that in the pro-life cause "the love of Christ urges us on" (2 Cor 5:14). This attitude is not a political tactic, nor does it arise from intransigence or political extremism. Rather, it dares not compromise the dignity that Christ's love has imparted to each of us.
The Church's proclamation of the Gospel of life calls us to enter into this profound reality — the reality of the Redeemer's love for each human being. This reality is the key to understanding who we are as persons and our responsibilities to those around us.
Our responsibilities as citizens are measured by a calculus of justice, and we must therefore work untiringly for just laws. But our responsibilities as Christians can only be fulfilled through a vocation of love as revealed by "the Creator and lover of life" (100).
Evangelium Vitae concludes with an appeal to the Blessed Virgin Mary, "the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for." The pope prays that all those who accept the Gospel of life may be granted "the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love" (105).
May Venerable John Paul II continue to intercede for us, and may Mary always obtain for her Knights the grace to be foremost in the defense of "the sacred value of human life from its very beginning to its end" (2).