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 Evangelium Vitae(Gospel of Life)

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PostSubject: Evangelium Vitae(Gospel of Life)   Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:00 pm

Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Evangelium vitae


1. 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.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this "great joy" is the Birth of the Saviour; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that "new" and "eternal" life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this "life" that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.

The incomparable worth of the human person

2. Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individual's earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an "ultimate" but a "penultimate" reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life, which she has received from her Lord, 1 has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alike-because it marvellously fulfils all the heart's expectations while infinitely surpassing them. Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded.

In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: "By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being".2 This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person.

The Church, faithfully contemplating the mystery of the Redemption, acknowledges this value with ever new wonder.3 She feels called to proclaim to the people of all times this "Gospel", the source of invincible hope and true joy for every period of history. The Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.

For this reason, man-living man-represents the primary and fundamental way for the Church.

Evangelium Vitae(Gospel Of Life)

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PostSubject: Re: Evangelium Vitae(Gospel of Life)   Mon Nov 24, 2008 4:13 pm


Released by the Vatican on March 30, 1995 along with the encyclical.

From its very title, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the new encyclical of Pope John Paul II demonstrates its highly positive character and its great spiritual thrust. While realistically countering unprecedented threats to life and the spread of a "culture of death," the primary intention of the papal document is to proclaim the good news of the value and dignity of each human life, of its grandeur and worth, also in its temporal phase. The cause of life is in fact at the same time the cause of the Gospel and the cause of man, the cause entrusted to the church.

The encyclical is presented with great doctrinal authority: It is not only an expression, like every other encyclical, of the ordinary magisterium of the pope, but also of the episcopal collegiality which was manifested first in the extraordinary consistory of cardinals in April 1991 and subsequently in a consultation of all the bishops of the Catholic Church, who unanimously and firmly agree with the teaching imparted in it (No. 5). This teaching is in substance "a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability," and also "a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person in the name of God: Respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness" (No. 5).

1. Present-day Threats to Human Life

The first chapter of the papal document is devoted to an analysis of the lights and the shadows of the present-day situation with regard to human life.

First there is a denunciation of the proliferation and increased intensity of threats to life, especially when life is weak and defenseless at its very beginning and at its end: abortion, immoral experimentation on human embryos, euthanasia. There is a clear description of the unprecedented and specific features of these crimes against life: At the level of public opinion they are claimed to be rights based on individual freedom; there is a trend toward their recognition in law; they are carried out with the help of medical science. This involves a distortion of society's nature and purpose and of the constitutional state itself: Democracy, if detached from its moral foundations and linked to an unlimited ethical relativism, risks becoming the pretext for a war of the stronger against the weaker; the roles of health care personnel tend to be subverted: Instead of respectful service of life, they lend themselves to actions which bring about death.

The causes of this "culture of death" which threatens man and civilization are traced by the Holy Father to a perverse idea of freedom, which is seen as disconnected from any reference to truth and objective good, and which asserts itself in an individualistic way, without the constitutive link of relationships with others. Associated with this is a practical materialism which gives priority to having over being, the satisfaction of personal pleasure over respect for those who are weak, and which ends by considering life worthwhile only to the extent that it is productive and enjoyable; suffering is considered useless, sacrifice for the sake of others unjustified. Underlying all this is a loss of the sense of God. But "when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man" (No. 21).

These threats are interpreted by the pope in the context of that perennial conflict between life and death which emerged at the very beginning of human history and which sacred Scripture testifies to in the events of Cain, who because of envy "rose up against his brother Abel and killed him" (Gn. 4 :8 ); of the ancient pharaoh who, viewing as a threat the increasing numbers of the children of Israel, ordered that every newborn male of the Hebrew women should be put to death; of Herod who, out of fear for his throne, "sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem" (Mt. 2:16); and finally of the apocalyptic conflict in which "the dragon stood before the woman ...that he might devour her child when she brought it forth" (Rv. 12 : 4 ). Human life, especially when weak and defenseless, has always been threatened by the forces of evil.

Although the blood of Abel and of all innocent victims of violence cries out to God, the precious blood of Christ, the sign of his self-gift (Jn. 13 :1 ), "speaks more eloquently" (Heb. 12:24). It reveals the value of human life in the eyes of God, who for the sake of life gave his only Son, "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3 : 16 ). This is the basis of the absolute certainty that, according to God's plan, the victory will belong to life. In fact there are already signs of this victory, signs of hope, sometimes more hidden, less obtrusive, but significant: families which freely accept abandoned children and older people; volunteer work in the service of life; movements and programs of social consciousness raising in support of life; generous and respectful involvement in the medical profession and in scientific research; sensitivity to bioethical questions and ecology; a growing aversion to the death penalty. Above all, the daily gestures of welcome, sacrifice and selfless concern shown to the "little ones" and to the most needy are spreading around the world "the civilization of life and of love." In this dramatic conflict, which has lasted throughout history and is taking on new characteristics in our time, God's call is heard clearly and powerfully: "See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.... Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" (Dt. 30 : 15, 19 ).

2. Life as Gift

The second chapter is in the form of a meditation on the Christian message regarding life. In fact, "the Gospel of life is something concrete and personal, for it consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus" (No. 29). As St. Paul says, it was "our Savior Christ Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." (2 Tm. 1: 10 ).

The light of revelation, which reaches its fullness in Jesus Christ, confirms and completes all that human reason can grasp concerning the value of human life. Precious and fragile, full of promises and threatened by suffering and death, man's life on earth bears within itself that seed of immortal life planted by the Creator in the human heart (cf. No. 31 ). That life is the object of God's tender and intense love, especially in the poor, the weak and the defenseless: "Truly great must be the value of human life if the Son of God has taken it up and made it the instrument of the salvation of humanity!"(No. 33 ).

At this point we come to the decisive question, Why is life a good? Why is it always a good? The answer is simple and clear: because it is a gift from the Creator, who breathed into man the divine breath, thus making the human person the image of God. While sin darkens life by threatening it with death and throwing into doubt its nature as a gift, redemption, achieved in the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, redeems its worth, lifting it up to unheard-of heights in the prospect of the gift of eternal life. Gratuitously the Father calls each individual, in his Son, to partake of the fullness of divine life by becoming "sons and daughters in the Son." The sublime dignity of human life thus shines forth not only in the light of its origin, but even more so in the light of its destiny.

Earthly life, which is at once both relativized and given new value, opens up to the prospect of eternal life. It is not an absolute value in itself: It is entrusted to man as a beginning to be made fruitful for eternity as a first gift which will reach its fullness if, after the example of Christ and with his power, it succeeds in becoming a gift of love of God and of others. This is the truest and most profound meaning of life: The gift is accomplished in self-giving. "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mk. 8:35). The martyrs freely gave their lives out of love, showing that our earthly existence is not something absolute to which we should cling at all costs. "No one, however, can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone, in whom 'we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17 : 28 )" (No. 47 ).

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