Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Celebrating life

Lisa Ellis,Filled with the Holy Spirit

The gospel (which means good news) is also a great story about human life. We are said that it is a precious gift to be received from God; this gift has to be cared for and celebrated.

     On Sunday June 16th Francis Pope presided the Eucharist as the center of the celebration of the "Gospel of Life". By doing this, he wanted in the Year of Faith to thank God for the gift of human life and proclaim the Christian message about life (the "Gospel of Life" is the title of the encyclical of John Paul II in 1995). He developed his exposure on three points: the Bible presents God as the God of Life, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit bring us life and the third one, following God leads to life.

The Bible reveals the God of Life

     The Second Book of Samuel (2 S 12, 7 ff.) features David's adultery with Uriah's wife (after king David targeted Urias to be killed in battle). The Scripture opposes evil to good, and in this context, "works of death" (sins) to "works of life."

     David repents and God, the living God who gives life, forgives him. Scripture, in the words of Pope Francis, “the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life”. It already appears in Genesis (2, 7) where God is presented as the source of human life. It also appears in the vocation of Moses to deliver his people from Egypt (cf. Ex 3, 14). And also in the giving of the Ten Commandments, which are not a litany of prohibitions (you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other), but “on the contrary, they are a great ‘Yes!’ a yes to God, a yes to Love, to life”. In short, says Francis, “our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!"

     In the Gospel, Jesus appears criticizing a pharisee whereas he forgives a sinful woman, who feels understood and loved and responds with a gesture of love. So we see once again, as in the case of King David who regreted his sin, that the Living God is also merciful.

Christ and the Holy Spirit give us the divine life

     This was the experience of the Apostle Paul: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

      Thus St. Paul speaks of the fullness of life, which is the very life of God. Pope Francis asks, “And who brings us this life?” The answer is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ.. “The Spirit leads us into the divine life as true children of God, as sons and daughters in the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ”. And hence arise questions for us: “Are we open to the Holy Spirit? Do we let ourselves be guided by him?”

     Indeed, as we join Christ through Baptism and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit makes the Christian as "spiritual”. Now, observes Pope Francis, “this does not mean that we are people who live ‘in the clouds’, far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage”. No!, replies Francis: “The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters”. And this –he adds– entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to all around them”.

To follow the God of life

      However, continues the Pope, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, nor they accept the “Gospel of Life” “but they let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others”.

     It is –Francis goes on– like a new Tower of Babel, “the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God, without God’s life and love “, based on the thought that rejecting God, the message of Christ and the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to freedom and complete human fulfilment. But the result is quite different. “As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death”.

     Given all this, the Pope proposes: “Let us look to God as the God of Life, let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The Living God sets us free! Let us say ‘Yes’ to love and not selfishness. Let us say ‘Yes’ to life and not death. Let us say ‘Yes’ to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say ‘Yes’ to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4,8; 11,25; 8,32)”.

    And he adds: “Only faith in the Living God saves us: in the God who in Jesus Christ has given us his own life by the gift of the Holy Spirit and has made it possible to live as true sons and daughters of God through his mercy”. This is the faith –concludes the Pope– that brings us freedom and happiness. 

To defend human life from conception to natural death

     In this way Francis referred to the Christian message on life, which affects many aspects: not only the defence of human life from conception to natural death, but also to everything that leads to forget worrying about the life of others and to revolve around ourselves, away from the mercy of God's children.

   He had previously spoken about this issue, he did it quite graphically, in the general audience on June 5th, denouncing the "culture of waste": "That some homeless people die of cold in the street is not news. In contrast, a drop of ten points in the stock market of some cities is a tragedy. Someone dying is not news, but if the stock market falls ten points is a tragedy! Thus individuals are discarded, like waste"

    And he added: "The human life, the person is no longer perceived as the primary value that has to be respected and protected, especially if she is poor or disabled –or still unborn- or if she cannot work anymore -because is already old".

    We should recall, in this respect, the words of Benedict XVI pronounced in an speech given to the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the occasion of an international congress on human embryos in the pre-implantation stage:

     “God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gn 1: 26)”

     So, everyone, especially Christians should rejoice in this celebration of life, pointing pedagogically the line along which humanity must walk if we want to move towards real progress.

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