One of the great legacies of Blessed Pope John Paul II to the Church and world was his passion for building a Culture of Life, even in a world which seems to be ruled by a culture of death. He continually called the People of God to spread the Gospel of Life, the inherent dignity of every human person, from conception to natural death, and to work tirelessly for its promotion in all levels of society.
As we celebrate Blessed Pope John Paul II’s legacy on the Culture of Life, today we read an excerpt of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), given in Rome on the Feast of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
For a New Culture of Human Life
“You are God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:9): a people of life and for life
78. The Church has received the Gospel as a proclamation and a source of joy and salvation. She has received it as a gift from Jesus, sent by the Father “to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). She has received it through the Apostles, sent by Christ to the whole world (cf. Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19-20). Born from this evangelizing activity, the Church hears every day the echo of Saint Paul’s words of warning: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). As Paul VI wrote, “evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize”.
Evangelization is an all-embracing, progressive activity through which the Church participates in the prophetic, priestly and royal mission of the Lord Jesus. It is therefore inextricably linked to preaching, celebration and the service of charity. Evangelization is a profoundly ecclesial act, which calls all the various workers of the Gospel to action, according to their individual charisms and ministry.
This is also the case with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel of life, an integral part of that Gospel which is Jesus Christ himself. We are at the service of this Gospel, sustained by the awareness that we have received it as a gift and are sent to preach it to all humanity, “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With humility and gratitude we know that we are the people of life and for life, and this is how we present ourselves to everyone.
79. We are the people of life because God, in his unconditional love, has given us the Gospel of life and by this same Gospel we have been transformed and saved. We have been ransomed by the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15) at the price of his precious blood (cf. 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19). Through the waters of Baptism we have been made a part of him (cf. Rom 6:4-5; Col 2:12), as branches which draw nourishment and fruitfulness from the one tree (cf. Jn 15:5). Interiorly renewed by the grace of the Spirit, “who is the Lord and giver of life”, we have become a people for life and we are called to act accordingly.
We have been sent. For us, being at the service of life is not a boast but rather a duty, born of our awareness of being “God’s own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light” (cf. 1 Pet 2:9). On our journey we are guided and sustained by the law of love: a love which has as its source and model the Son of God made man, who “by dying gave life to the world”.
We have been sent as a people. Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly “ecclesial” responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all the members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not however eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to “become the neighbour” of everyone: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).
Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programmes and structures which support and promote life.
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Copyright Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Reprinted with permission.
Editor’s Note: During the month of November, as we celebrate the final days of the Year of Faith, we’d like to feature stories from YOU about the blessings and fruits you’ve experienced during this year. How did you celebrate? What did you do to grow in faith? How did your relationship with Christ and His Church deepen?
Send us your stories and reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your contact information, and your reflection could be featured here on the blog in November!
Submissions should be under 500 words; deadline for submissions is October 31st.