Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Life and Missions: Be a witness to the Gospel of Life

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.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Faithful Citizenship: Considering the totality of the Gospel of Life as we cast our votes

Bringing our faith to the public square is a fundamental expression of how we share God’s love for each other as we work toward building a virtuous civilization of love. In Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, we are reminded of our responsibility to share with others the love God lavishes upon us. Pope Benedict reminded us, and Pope Francis reiterates, that if we truly believe “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,” the church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Deus Caritas Est, 28; Evangelii Gaudium, 183).

Considering the government has a responsibility to create a just society, we — as church — must also accept our responsibility to stimulate, advocate and serve as catalysts to compel the government to always advocate for what is right and just for the common good. As we approach the November elections, bombarded with extensive rhetoric about which candidates are worthiest of our votes, I recommend considering the following points as we form our consciences.

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 (Evangelium Vitae, 81). Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin often reminds us that God has given each of us an inestimable dignity that can never be taken away. If we believe the Gospel of Life is the core of the church’s social teaching, then we must strive arduously not only to preserve and protect life after conception, but also to nurture and respect life from conception to natural death. This means that we need to express care and concern for every member of society.

Justice is inseparable from charity and intrinsic to it (Caritas in Veritate, 6). The state, together with economic institutions, has a responsibility to make the kinds of systemic changes needed to protect the vulnerable, the impoverished and various peoples suffering from discrimination and exclusion. In keeping with our promotion of the sanctity of life, we should keep before us that this ideal encompasses the serious concerns of extensive hunger, euthanasia, violence, capital punishment and the absence of adequate health care.

We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them (Evangelii Gaudium, 48). Pope Francis reminds us that our missionary impulse enables us to go forth to everyone without exception. Considering the inseparable bond between our faith and the poor, we should never forget that it was for our sake Christ became poor although he was rich — for it was by his poverty that we would become rich. Just as Christ loved us so much that he gave up his life to save us, we too should desire to follow Christ’s example expressing concern for the poor. Our advocacy on behalf of the poor expresses the authenticity of our love and concern for the inviolable dignity of every person without regard for distinction.

We must consider all the church’s teaching on human life, human rights, justice and peace as we discern for whom to vote in the upcoming elections. Considering the subjective media attention concerning the presidential elections, we must carefully take the time to form our consciences within the framework of the totality of the Gospel of Life. It is not the responsibility of bishops, priests and deacons to tell us for whom to vote. If anything, they are obliged to teach the truth to aid in the formation of our consciences through the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the authoritative teaching of the magisterium.

Finally, let us not fall into the temptation of broadly disparaging any political party or group because they disagree with our views. Let us not find ourselves misusing Scripture and church teaching to antagonize or demonize those whose political views differ from our own. Rather, let us share with those who disagree with us the love God has lavished on us as we endeavor to build a virtuous civilization of love. This is, in part, how we may fully promote the Gospel of Life in this contemporary age.