March 25 marks the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). This is not just another document. It is literally a celebration.
It celebrates Christ, Who is personally the Gospel and the Life. It celebrates humanity, love, and true freedom.
The Church knows how to celebrate; the world has forgotten. The Church knows how to receive and give life and love. In fact, the very meaning of life is to give and receive love (cf. no. 81). But the world has become too preoccupied with usefulness, efficiency, and productivity (no. 22). The world is too busy with its frantic flight from all suffering and death (no. 64, nos. 66-67). It flees these because it has forgotten what they mean. It sees them only as things to be avoided and controlled. Ironically, such forgetfulness envelops the world even more in the very things it tries to escape. And in the midst of its slavery to death, the world shouts about freedom, all the while fearing it will be shackled by the One Who brings true freedom, namely, Christ.
The world needs “good news”, that is, Evangelium. The document begins, “The Gospel (Evangelium) of life is at the heart of Jesus's 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” (no. 1).
Life is joyful, so it is to be proclaimed (nos. 80-82), celebrated (nos. 83-86) and served (nos. 87-89). The message of life is not optional, or added on to the Gospel, but is at the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel of Life is simply the Gospel of Christ, for He is Life (cf. no. 29).
The Church is inescapably pro-life (no. 28) precisely because she is feminine. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Mother of believers and, in fact, of all humanity (no. 3). The earth today is covered with innocent blood, which cries out from the ground to the God who made it (cf. nos. 7-9, Gn 4:2-16). But thanks be to God, there is another Blood that cries out to heaven more eloquently (cf. no. 25, Heb 12: 22, 24). The cry of the Blood of Christ brings mercy to those who shed the blood of their brothers and sisters. The shed Blood of Christ teaches the meaning of love, which is to sacrifice oneself for the good of the other person. It reverses the dynamic of the culture of death, which sacrifices the other person for the good of oneself.
The Blood of Christ, one drop of which can purify a billion worlds, gives us strength to carry out the “great campaign on behalf of life” which is called for by this encyclical (no. 95). The pro-life movement itself, in fact, is a sign of hope and victory (no. 26). The encyclical looks to the day when “death will be no more” (Rv 21:4; cf. no. 105). That time is coming, and that promise is, in a nutshell, the Gospel of Life.
Fr. Pavone is the Founding Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: email@example.com; Website: www.priestsforlife.org.