Lesson 5b: Gospel of Life: Origin and Destiny
Chapter II of Evangelium Vitae, nn.29-51, is the Christian message concerning life. The Gospel of Life is not merely a reflection nor merely a commandment, but the concrete proclamation of the very person of Jesus Christ: the way, truth and life (Jn.14:6) the resurrection and life (Jn.11:25) Who came that "they might have life and have it abundantly" (Jn.10:10). It is through the Person of Jesus that we can know and do the truth about life (Jn.3:21) (EV, 29).
Here begins the repeated thematic: "life is always a good". This anti-gnostic truth is the teaching of the Old Testament (EV, 31) and the New (EV, 32). "Life is always a good" (EV, 34): the summit of God's creation "a clear affirmation of the primacy of man over things" (Gn.2:15): a special bond with the Creator, made in His image -- uniquely endowed with reason and free will (EV, 34, 35), capable of and open to eternal life (EV, 37):
"Here the Christian truth about life becomes most sublime. The dignity of this life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact it comes from God, but also to its final end, to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of him." (EV, 38)
"Man's life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills" (EV, 39). This is why human life is SACRED -- because of its origin (God) and because of its destiny (God); the bible gives unanimous witness that the sacredness of life has its foundation in God and his creative activity: "For God made man in his own image" (Gn.1:26).
The "sacredness" of life gives rise to its inviolability (EV, 40) and this is the tap root principle for the life-death ethic (cf.Catechism #2258 and CDF, Donum Vitae, 2/22/87, Introduction, n.5).
'Teachings of the Magisterium', note carefully the 3 paragraphs and all footnotes ##16-22. The expression "Life is Sacred" is common in Catholic and religious circles, but its roots and rationale are often not well understood, it is more often presumed and left unexplained. That neglect is a serious mistake. EV takes some pains to explain it as we should make great effort to absorb it.
The dignity of the unborn and the elderly is then examined in the Bible in EV both the Old Testament (n.44) and the New (n.45).
"Although there are no direct and explicit calls to protect human life at its very beginning, . . . " (EV, 44) the possibility of harming, attacking or denying life is completely foreign to the People of God. Many sources are cited to support that conclusion: Ps.127; Gn.15:5; Jer.1:5; Job 10:8-12; 2 Mac.7:22-23 along with other Psalms:22:10-11; 71:6; 139:13-14. Curiously, the encyclical does not cite the only indirect case re abortion in the Bible Ex.21:22: "When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined . . . But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life" (21:22-23). True, it is not a case of direct abortion, but it is also true that this Torah case makes no distinction about so-called formed and unformed human life.
EV n.45 recalls the Visitation passage of St. Elizabeth and a beautiful citation from St. Ambrose. One might note with care the original Greek of Lk.1:44:" . . . the infant in my womb leaped for joy." The Greek reads: to brephos (the baby) en tê koilia which St. Jerome rendered in the Vulgate: "exaltavit in gaudio infans in utero meo."
EV n.46 notes that it would be anachronistic to expect biblical revelation to speak of euthanasia in the present-day terms we so often employ. But, there can be no doubt about the dignity, respect and reverence of old age in the Bible which sees it as a blessing just as life is a blessing. Old age and illness are not seen as a burden to be avoided and discarded but as more deserving of respect and reverent support.
The Doctrine of the Cross will provide the complete revelation of the whole Gospel of Life (EV, 50). Especially in the Culture of Death, we should turn to the Cross not from it, because what seems a defeat, a criminal prosecution, a loss is not. "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mk.15:39) -- that moment of greatest weakness revealed who he is: on the Cross his glory is made manifest. It is, again, not just a reflection or commandment we examine here but a Person, Jesus Christ, who reveals the Christian message concerning life.