Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The scandal of abundant life in a culture of death

A baby is born into the world: breathing, moving, kicking, delivered into human hands—the miracle of new life. Unless you are a late-term abortionist, in which case this “unsettling” situation requires you to kill the child outside the womb rather than inside.

How can this be happening?

And then I was reminded of Christs promise: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).

For most of my life as a Protestant, this verse meant simply the reward of eternal life. Now I read with the eyes of a Catholic, and see how the promise of “abundant life” provokes dissension and even hatred in those who reject it. As Pope St John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae: “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.” (Emphasis added.)

Indeed, the battle for abundant life has been fought for over 2,000 years. As King Solomon said, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). So while the methods have changed, and the numbers are horrific, abortion and infanticide were happening even during Our Lord's earthly ministry.

The Church Fathers spoke out against the horrors of abortion in their day:

“It is not permissible for us to destroy the seed by means of illicit manslaughter once it has been conceived in the womb, so long as blood remains in the person.” —Tertullian (c. 160 - 240), Apologia, cap 25, line 42
“Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?” —John Chrysostom (347-407), Homily 24 on Romans
While evil men claim the right to destroy the “gift of God,” the Church stands against this culture of death, renouncing Satan and all his works. For God never delights in death: He sent his only begotten Son to conquer it that we might live. And the Church which He established stands—and has always stood—for life. “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (CCC 2258).

Nativity by Giotto (1310s)

But for the Catholic Church, no other institution on the face of the earth recognizes death in all its forms, because only the Church acknowledges life in all its forms. The Church professes that every human life is sacred. Through her sacraments, she unites our lives with the Divine, from Baptism to Last Rites. In the Eucharist the faithful are nourished on the “bread of life”—the very life-giving body of Jesus Christ.

In the world, however, hostility to life is accepted in varying degrees. Marriage is put to death by the myth of divorce, which in turn causes further casualties for families and children. Many do not appreciate, or even perceive, the lives lost through contraception and sterilization. While some use abortifacients masquerading as birth control, others prefer Plan B. The abnormal and unwanted are killed by abortion, the useless by assisted suicide. Islam promotes the heresy that suicide and murder merit eternal life. And lets not forget the countless lives lost when children are conceived through surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. Even in the desire for life, fallen man acquiesces to the culture of death.

Who would have thought that life itself would be so divisive and provoke such hatred? The Catholic Church is a scandal to the world not because of the “hard teaching” of the Eucharist, the Incarnation, or a man rising from the dead—but because of something so simple, so elementary.

The culture of death seems to ask, “Where, O Life, is your sting?” and, in pursuing its own selfish ends, destroys that which requires sacrifice—marriage, children, the sick, disabled, and elderly. On the contrary, the culture of life glories in the sacrifice. What greater good might come of this time, with its daily horrors, than if the lukewarm, and those who are far from the one, true Church, were to embrace the abundance of life she offers? Only then can we say, with the communion of saints and all the faithful: “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

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