January 22, 2012
In his 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), John Paul the Great asked the Church to reflect on how the disciples of the Lord Jesus are to create and proclaim a culture of life. He did this by reflecting on the darker dimensions of our world and how our post-modern, post-Christian narcissism has created a powerful and prolific culture of death. On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade (22 January 1973), let’s ponder these two ways of “seeing” the world and our how our living in the midst of the world strengthens one or the other of these two cultures.
The culture of life…the life and mission of the Church: In John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus of Nazareth inviting us into his life, as he reminds us of his mission: I came… so that you may have life… and have it more abundantly (John 10.10). The son of Mary invited and implored and urged all who would listen to his word, urging the people then…urging you and me today, to believe that… you are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (Matthew 5. 14, 16).
My life…your life…has been given to us. We did not earn our existence. We did not merit our life. We did not control our coming into the world. I was given this gift of life through the plan and project of God, as a young man (Robert Ellis Talley) and a young woman (Barbara Anne Barton) came together in love. I am the fruit of their love…the fruit of God’s plan and project (Genesis 1.27-28). My birth was pure gift, and in the plan and project of the Giver of all gifts.
Here is the mystery: though my life is a gift from Another, I am free…to live out this gift of life…however I choose. Humanity…you and I…have been given life and the freedom to “spend this gift” however we choose.
The life of Jesus of Nazareth is God’s response for the mess that humanity had made of the world. The mission of Jesus of Nazareth was and is…to save us…to save us from the power of evil, to save us from ourselves and from the distorted culture of death we have fabricated…in our misuse of freedom…our rejection of the plan and project of God.
Are you living the gift of life according to the plan and project of God? Are you living abundantly, fruitfully? Do you seek to follow the new Way of Life as an intentional disciple of Jesus of Nazareth? Do your good deeds give glory to the Giver of all gifts, the author of all life? Are you light for the world?
The culture of life…the culture of death. Do we recognize these competing powers? How do you and I live our lives, so that our light may shine before others…and give glory to God? On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade…celebrated this year on Sunday…let us begin again to follow the Way of the Lord Jesus…and live abundant lives…by loving God and all the gifts given….choosing life (Deuteronomy 30.19).