By Ray Campbell
IN 1995 Blessed John Paul began his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, with the words: “The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture.”
Pope John Paul’s encyclical was in many ways a wake-up call.
It was not simply a repetition of the Church’s traditional teaching on the sanctity of human life.
It was a call to evangelise our culture.
In the final chapter of his encyclical the pope placed his message firmly at the heart of the call to evangelisation. He called on all the Church to be a people of life and for life, and to present ourselves that way to everyone.
“We have been sent as a people. Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly ‘ecclesial’ responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not however eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to ‘become the neighbour’ of everyone: ‘Go and do likewise’ (Luke 10:37).”
On the pages of this week’s feature are represented various organisations which in different ways respond to the Gospel of Life. But it is not enough.
Every parish is called to be at the service of life.
Every parish is called to witness to and stand up for the inviolable dignity of every human person.
In the words of John Paul II, we need to “rediscover the ability to revere and honour every person”.
We are those who “cannot but respond with songs of joy, praise and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of life, for the mystery of every individual’s call to share through Christ in the life of grace and in an existence of unending communion with God our Creator and Father”.
“Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of Life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy, in our whole existence, to serve it, with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.”
As Pope Francis has called a Synod on the Family it is appropriate to recall that Pope John Paul II saw the family at the heart of this evangelisation of the Gospel of Life.
“The family” he says, “has a decisive responsibility … which flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to ‘guard, reveal and communicate love’.”
Every home, every parish is “summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of Life”. Let us support the organisations which do so much in the service of life, but it is not enough to leave it to others.
We are called to do our part as well.
Ray Campbell is director of the Queensland Bioethics Centre.