A PEOPLE OF AND FOR LIFE
By Monsignor JOSÉ H. GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of life. Jesus said: “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full.”
The U.S. Catholic bishops have chosen these words of Jesus as the theme for this year’s celebration of October as Respect Life Month.
This month let us pray together as a Church to ask God’s mercy to stop every offense against the sanctity and dignity of the human person. Let’s ask God to open the eyes of our brothers and sisters so they are able to see that all life is sacred.
Blessed John Paul II said that as Christians we are called to be people of life and for life.
Our religion, in a beautiful and mysterious way, is deeply identified with human life. What other world religion remembers the time when its founder was in his mother’s womb?
Yet in our sacred Scriptures, we preserve the story of Jesus’ conception, his birth, and even some events from his early childhood. We retell these stories in our worship, year after year — at Christmas time, in feasts like the Annunciation. We remember the name of Jesus’ mother in our confession of faith, when we say Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary.”
Biblical religion is a religion in which family and children, and the promise of children, plays a big role.
Think of the stories of Abraham and Sarah and God’s promise to give them a son. Think of God’s words to the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
Again and again in the salvation history we read in the Bible, God’s plan is enacted through a woman who is with child. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son …”
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to love the Gospel story of the Visitation. She always pointed to this detail — how St. John the Baptist leapt in St. Elizabeth’s womb when Mary walked into the room.
She said: “Something very beautiful, something very wonderful happened. The first human being to recognize the presence of Jesus was the little one in the womb of his mother — who leaped with joy. It is so beautiful to think that God gave that little unborn child the greatness of proclaiming the presence of Jesus on earth.”
This is why for Catholics the defense of unborn life is not a political issue. This issue is deeply related to who we are as Catholics, to our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.
An unborn child was the first to bear witness to Jesus! God loved us so much that he entered into this world as each one of us did — through the womb of a mother. Jesus Christ took our human nature and spent nine months in the womb!
Why would he do this?
To show us that human life is sacred. To show us that every life is precious to God. To show us that each of us is a child of God who is loved in a special way by our Father in heaven.
And this is why Christians have been defending the right to life from the very beginnings of the Church.
In the year 175, Athenagoras, an ordinary layman, a catechist, wrote to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and explained the Church’s rejection of abortion. He told the emperor: “The fetus in the womb is a created being and therefore an object of God’s care.”
Life is sacred in the eyes of God. This is the great revelation of our Christian faith.
This is why we defend for the right of every child to be born. This is why we defend the rights of the old and the sick to be cared for with love and compassion until their natural death. This is why we strive to preserve the mystery of marriage as the union of man and woman in the plan of God. And this is why we strive for justice for the immigrant and the worker; for the imprisoned, the hungry and the homeless.
This is who we are as Catholics. We are a people of life and for life.
So let’s keep praying for one another this week.
And let’s us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, from whose womb our salvation was born, to help us to evangelize our culture — to bring her Son’s Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of our society. VN
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