General Intention: Culture of Life. That, faced with the expansion of the culture of violence and death, the Church may courageously promote the culture of life through all her apostolic and missionary activities.
Pope Benedict XVI asks us to pray for the culture of life — specifically, that the Church may effectively promote life through its activities. Prayer for the culture of life is urgent because the culture of violence and death is growing.
The culture of death is based on the idea that humans are something less than beings in the image of God, unique creatures so loved by their Creator that he took flesh and died to restore us to friendship with himself. When a society loses this belief in the inestimable value of each person, the culture of death creeps in.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its discussion of the fifth commandment, “You shall not kill,” specifically condemns murder, abortion, euthanasia, genocide, wars that are not necessary for defense, slavery, racism, sexism, torture, abuse, suicide, and all other acts that degrade or victimize people (2258-2317).
Although its moral vision has sharpened throughout history, the Church has always condemned the practices of the culture of death. The truth we uphold is that God is Love and Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus both affirmed and reversed the negative “thou shalt not” of the fifth commandment by giving us the positive commandment to love others and do good to them, even to the least of them, even to our enemies. We are to love, protect, and serve all who are vulnerable, including the unborn, young, old, ill, handicapped, weak, hurting, outcast, and oppressed.
This month we pray that the whole Church may promote the culture of life and be a true light to our darkening world.
Because we are sinners, we all have done things or have attitudes that are opposed to the culture of life. How do you think God wants to change you?
Matthew 5:21-22: You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.
Mission Intention: Fraternal Witness. That, especially in mission countries, Christians may show through gestures of kindness that the Child born in Bethlehem is the Hope of the world.
This month the Pope offers us a Christmas intention that emphasizes again that Christians ought to be doers and not just hearers of the Word of God. We are to pray that all Christians will show by actions as well as words that the Child born in Bethlehem is the true Hope of the world.
What actions? “Gestures of kindness,” says the Holy Father. What is the message? That God became a human being, a fragile child born into a world torn by sin and strife. God was never indifferent to our plight, but chose in one person at one time and in one place to manifest his Love. Previously God spoke through the prophets; this time he spoke through a gesture, his own appearance in the flesh.
In so doing, he unites himself with every person. Jesus was like us in all things, except sin. He walked among us and spoke God’s own words. But then in another incomprehensible gesture of kindness toward us, he offered himself as an innocent sacrifice for our eternal life. Now “each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God ‘loved me and gave himself up for me’ (Galatians 2:20)” (Gaudiem et Spes, 26).
Gaudiem et Spes (Joy and Hope) was approved by the bishops at the end of the great Church council of the 1960s. The document speaks eloquently about the Hope that extends from Bethlehem to our own world today. “By suffering for us he not only provided us with an example for our imitation, he blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on new meaning” (27).
“Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from his gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by his death; he lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit: Abba, Father” (33, 34).
By the power of that same Spirit of Christ, may Christians everywhere reflect their great Hope by “gestures of kindness,” gestures small and large, expressing genuine love for others, forgetful of ourselves.
Through what gesture of kindness will you express your faith that the Child born in Bethlehem is the Hope of the world?
Mark 9:36-37: Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
December Prayer of the Month
O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life.
Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.
Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love to the people of our time.
Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives
and 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,
to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.
–concluding prayer of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life