By Nancy Russell Catan
The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. He said: “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) This is also the call of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals – fullness of life in Christ.
What does this fullness of life really mean? Life, especially human life, comes from God and belongs to God. Life on earth is a sharing of God’s life, a sacred reality and responsibility given to each one of us. This life is brought to perfection in the gift of ourselves to God and to our sisters and brothers. God entrusts us to one another and directs us to embrace the Culture of Life through caring and concern and the gift of self to others.
Embracing this Culture of Life is part of our Christian responsibility as an authentic evangelizing presence in the worldly environment of distorted values. We cannot truly experience fullness of life in Christ unless we can proclaim the Gospel in Word and Sacrament and Life in such a way as to effect personal conversion that impels us to active involvement in the exciting process of human development and liberation.
Such integral evangelization involves the whole person – in society, in community and in relationship with each other and with society’s institutions. We live out the Good News of Jesus Christ moment by moment in all areas of our lives in a way visible to others. This is the authentic “evangelizing presence” that leads us to fullness of life in Jesus Christ.
The Culture of Death
In today’s milieu there is a “conspiracy against life” that is subtly encroaching on the sanctity of life. This conspiracy takes the form of a “culture of death” and damages not only individuals in their personal, family, and community relations, but also distorts relations between peoples and nations.
Tne basic feature of this Culture of Death is the noticeable absence of God in a growing secularized lifestyle. Inundated by a flood of distorted and hedonistic values, many lose sight of God and forsake their Christian values for personal pleasure, physical beauty, materialism and the satisfaction of worldly desires. It is sad that by losing contact with God and living only for the moment as if He did not exist, these people also lose sight of the mystery of the world as God’s creation as well as the mystery of their own life. This brings about a loss of faith, the loss of the only trustworthy and solid Anchor for our lives, resulting in modern humanity’s confusion.
Pleasure is maximized; pain is minimized. Having and hoarding becomes more important than “being”. Sexuality is depersonalized and exploited. Society’s weakest members, such as the poor, the needy, the unborn, the children, those who have less in life, are increasingly marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. Crimes and attacks against human life such as abortion and euthanasia are accepted and tolerated. Subhuman working conditions, the selling of human flesh, the use of people as mere tools for profit — these are all signs that the Culture of Death is gaining ground.
The Culture of Life
We need to view our life as much more than mere existence in time. Life is always “a good”. It is the seed of an existence that transcends the very limits of time. God himself has planted eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God. And to proclaim Jesus is to proclaim life. Therefore, as “people for life” we must celebrate the Gospel of Life, to view life in its deeper meaning, and to look for God’s living image in every person. This is the Culture of Life.
The entire law of God serves to protect and nourish life. His commandment points us to the path of life (Deut. 30:15-16). He demands an accounting for human life from us, even as He did from Noah (Gen. 9:5). God’s commandment, “You shall not kill” is clear and definite in its meaning. God forbids anything, any action that would contribute to the Culture of Death. On the positive side this commandment leads us to love, respect, promote and serve life actively and wholeheartedly.
The Ethics of Life or Bio-Ethics principles are concerned with living out the Culture of Life ourselves and enabling others to live in dignity and fullness of life. We need to safeguard the dignity and sacredness of life, especially when this involves the unborn, the children, the sick and the dying. Doctors and nurses, healthcare professionals, caregivers and family members must be made aware of the Christian Ethics of Life relating to healthcare, especially in patient care decisions concerning artificial fertilization, contraception, abortion, sterilization, withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures and euthanasia.
What is our Responsibility?
As people of Life, as committed Christians, we have the obligation to be at the service of life, as individuals and as community. As a Christian community we are tasked to continue to manifest charity, care and concern for others, and develop, advocate and maintain programs in support of life. We have the moral and civic responsibility to work in shaping society so that the life of all is defended and enhanced, always understanding that society begins with each one of us and with our families.
It is in the family where the values of Life and Love are taught and nourished, especially in the special attention given to the young and the elderly, the sick and the physically challenged family members. It is in the family where children must be taught the value of life, the beauty of human sexuality and the responsibilities of love.
The future of society depends on the rediscovery of the innate human and moral values that promote and strengthen the Culture of Life. Many positive signs can already be seen – growing sensitivity to violence and war, greater concern for the unborn, the weak, the poor and powerless, and a reawakening to the importance of the quality of life, ecology and the ethical problems affecting human life. But more advocacy is needed.
We must build a new Culture of Life that confronts today’s Culture of Death. Moses’ invitation rings loud and clear: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you.” (Deut. 30:19-20)
Once we have chosen for God and the Culture of Life, St. Paul’s exhortation that concludes with “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21) becomes our banner cry in the battle for fullness of life in Christ for all.
Reprinted with permission from the BCBP Publication “Evangelizing Presence: Caring for Life” by Nancy Russell Catan, Pasquale Giordano, S.J., and Mitos Rivera (BCBP Manila, c2005).
John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), March 25, 1995. (Pasay City: Daughters of Saint Paul, 1995).