Recently, while giving a talk in another diocese, I was asked a very simple, but thought-provoking question: “In the midst of the strife and unrest being experienced across the country, how can Christians better live out the Gospel?” I must admit, I was immediately drawn to the wisdom of my friend of happy memory, the late Bishop David E. Foley of Birmingham.
Bishop Foley always reminded me that “the Christian faithful are a living, loving, diverse and dynamic people” who are called to live out the Gospel fully and completely. Jesus, the Son of God, in Sacred Scripture is the same salvation that happens to us at our baptism when we are born again by water and the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19–20), insisting that salvation is by faith in Christ. We are no longer empty, helpless souls, because Christ lives in us.
During this month devoted to Respect Life and World Missions, we are called to live the Gospel of Life by imitating Christ and following in his footsteps. Fundamentally, we must accept the certain reality that the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is a “manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory,” as St. John Paul II wrote in “Evangelium Vitae.” The church teaches that this fundamental truth must be reflected in how we treat each other, as “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.”
While the U.S. Bishops have rightly determined the threat of abortion remains their preeminent priority, the bishops do not advocate dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to life and dignity such as racism, poverty, capital punishment and so on. If we believe that Christ lives in us, there can be no room in the human heart for the promotion of abortion, violence, racism, capital punishment, disrespect and the many social ills plaguing our communities.
As we turn our attention to World Missions and the Pontifical Mission Societies, we recognize that some of our communities throughout Central Texas have endured significant hardships during the coronavirus pandemic. Pope Francis, in his message for World Mission Sunday, implores us, “In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here I am, send me’ (6:8). This is the ever-new response to the Lord’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’ This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity, in the current world crisis.” The Holy Father is reminding us of our divinely inspired responsibility to share the redemptive message of Christ to the whole world. Again, this is, in part, how we express living the Gospel of Life.
As Bishop Foley always stated, we are a living, loving, diverse and dynamic people who are called to live out the Gospel completely. As I think of his ministry, I pray that the authentic perspective of Respect Life “help Catholics understand, value and become engaged with building a culture that cherishes every human life” (USCCB Pro-Life Activities), and that many will answer Christ’s call to mission by responding in word, witness, prayer and sacrifice with “Here I am, send me.”
Learn more about upholding the sanctity of every human life at Respect Life Month and the diocesan office of Life, Marriage and Family. Learn more about World Missions and Pontifical Mission Societies at the diocesan office of Missions and Discipleship.