For many years the Church in the United States has celebrated October as Respect Life Month. It is a beautiful reminder to all of us that life is a sacred gift. Each year at this time, the U.S. Bishops launch the new edition of the Respect Life Program, a collection of resources used in dioceses nationwide to help all the faithful to live out the Gospel of Life. The theme of this year’s Respect Life Program is “Moved by Mercy”, reflecting the ongoing message that is being celebrated by the Church universal during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The world recently witnessed the canonization of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a holy woman who truly exemplifies what it means to by “moved by mercy”. Her witness of hands-on caring for those most unwanted and unloved by society speaks volumes, and it challenges us to allow the Lord to use us as His instruments in caring for the most vulnerable and those who have no voice. One of Mother Teresa’s best known sayings was, “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.” Of course, she was right. It’s all too easy to shake our heads and throw up our hands in despair when we are overwhelmed by the suffering all around us – the violence, the sorrow, the restless hearts. Oh, all those restless hearts – longing for peace, longing for joy, longing for God. We too easily forget that everything we do affects others in some way, for good or for ill. And we are also affected by the actions of others. The scourge of abortion on our nation does not leave anyone unscarred. We must pray for God’s grace to be instruments of truth and healing.
Mother Teresa herself suffered from a long and painful dark night of the soul, and yet she continued to persevere and carried out the work God called her to do. No one even knew that she was experience such feelings of darkness, for the witness of her life shone brightly with the light of Christ, even in the midst of her interior distress.
Saint Pope John Paul II told us in Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life) that “To proclaim Jesus is itself to proclaim life…We need to bring the Gospel of Life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society” (EV, n. 80). This is a tall order to be sure. Yet as people of life, we are compelled to persevere, like Saint Mother Teresa, even when things look dark.
During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has often focused our attention on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In announcing the Jubilee Year, the Holy Father noted that this is “a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective”. These acts of merciful love to which we are called, affirm this truth of proclaiming the Gospel of Life.
Saint John Paul explains further what proclaiming the Gospel of Life means:
It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life. It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life and his bodiliness. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of his love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ. It is the call for a “sincere gift of self” as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.
It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern. The meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love, and in this light human sexuality and procreation reach their true and full significance. Love also gives meaning to suffering and death; despite the mystery which surrounds them, they can become saving events. Respect for life requires that science and technology should always be at the service of man and his integral development. Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life…To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously (EV, 81, 82).
Let us pray that as People of Life, we may have the courage to pick up our cross daily, and be always moved by God’s Mercy to proclaim the Gospel of Life with love and devotion.