We Catholic Christians are People of Life. As the late Pope John Paul II proclaimed, we are called, as followers of Christ, to be “unconditionally pro-life,” and to “proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation.”
Of course, as Catholics, we have probably heard this before – many times. We know that the first and fundamental right of every human person is the right to life. We know that we are – old and young, guilty and innocent, weak and strong – loved by God and made in God’s image. We know that, at the very heart of Catholic social teaching is the unshakeable conviction that human life is sacred and that each person has inherent dignity that must be respected.
We are “unconditionally pro-life.” We have heard this before. But, maybe we have become used to hearing it? Maybe we are uncomfortable hearing it, or even tired of hearing it? We’ve heard Christ’s call, but have we listened, and responded? What does our call to “serve the Gospel of Life” mean?
Many of us are probably quick to translate Christ’s call to love and respect human life into a list of those things that we Christians should oppose, resist, and challenge: unjustified aggression, euthanasia and “mercy killing,” medical experiments that destroy human life, and, of course, abortion.
This translation is not wrong. We should oppose these practices. After all, as we read in Evangelium vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), “[i]t is impossible to further the common good” – that is, there is no chance for social justice –“without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. . . . Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of
the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.”
Our bishops – our pastors and teachers – have stated clearly that abortion, in particular, is not merely one “issue” among many, but is the “fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will[,]” because it “negates two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential concern for the weak and defenseless.”
To be People of Life, however – to live, serve, and proclaim the Gospel of Life – is not only to adopt a platform or take up a campaign. Our call is also to
propose to our friends, communities, and fellow citizens the truth about who we are. At the great Second Vatican Council, the Church reminded all Christians that God has not only revealed to us the truth about God, but – through and in Jesus – the truth about us.
The Christian writer C.S. Lewis preached a sermon in 1942 called “The Weight of Glory.” He said: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, worth with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
This is the amazing truth about us, and this is the truth that the Gospel of Life proclaims. Every human person is known and loved by God, and so every human life carries the “weight of glory.” This is why, as Christians, we must not only hear, on Respect Life Sunday, that we are People of Life. We are called also to embrace and proclaim the truth that human persons -- the embryo, the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the guilty and the violent – are
“everlasting splendours,” and so may not be sacrificed for convenience, cost, revenge, or research.