Of all the gifts God has given us, life, both physical and spiritual, is the most fundamental and the most precious. In Jesus, God reaffirms the gift of life he bestowed on humanity in the beginning of time and provides the antidote to the culture of sin and death that was introduced by the fall. In the introduction to the encyclical Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) proclaims the preciousness of the gift of life.
When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: “[I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full]” (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 encyclical also addresses “the incomparable worth of the human person.”
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. 1Jn 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.
As stewards of God’s gifts, the pope admonishes every believer to celebrate, value and guard the gift of human life.
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. Ro 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.
Think About It
- What is your definition of life?
- What makes life so valuable?
- How might you celebrate, value and guard the gift of life?
Pray About It
Lord, thank you for the life that you give “to the full.” Help me to live in celebration of the life you have given to all people, and to be a good steward of this sacred reality—your life in myself and in all the people you have made.