As we enter Respect Life Month, we do so in the midst of extremely challenging times: The ongoing pandemic has greatly impacted our families and communities; racial tension has brought renewed calls for justice and healing within our society; poverty and uncertainty has increased as individuals and families navigate the loss of work. The Gospel call of Jesus, to serve the most vulnerable and care for those for whom God has made us responsible, resounds particularly clearly in these difficult times. The theme for this year’s Respect Life Program, “Live the Gospel of Life,” compels us to embody that call, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae. It is in that embodiment that we, as disciples, contribute to the culture of life that is necessary to counter the culture of death, and give witness to the truth that all human life, as a gift from God, is sacred.
Further in the Respect Life reflection from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it states that Pope St. John Paul II “recognizes the full range of threats against human life, from poverty and malnutrition to murder and war. He places particular emphasis, however, on threats to life at its beginning and end — precisely when it is most in need of protection.” Our response to those most vulnerable in our society, the unborn and those nearing the end of life, is a critical foundation for the creation of a culture of life. The culture of death is clearly present in the injustice and inequity seen in our communities, seen first in the disregard for the unborn but then continuing in the form of racism, poverty, lack of education and other threats to human life. Life issues, therefore, are not separate from one another; they are tied together through our being created in the image of God. How we support the lives of the unborn impacts how we support those in need in our society, at every stage, all the way through to the moment of natural death.
With this in mind, we are challenged to live the Gospel of Life, to put our beliefs in action and work toward the creation of a culture of life. There are many ways to do so, including in the “everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing” (EV, 86). The Office of Life Issues website, www.LifeRoc.org, has information on such programs as “Walking with Moms in Need,” a parish opportunity offered by the USCCB to help women in crisis pregnancy, as well as educational information, and contact for local organizations that support life in numerous ways across the diocese. In addition to the resources on LifeRoc.org, it has been heartening to see the many ways that the people of God have responded to the pandemic in support of their brothers and sisters, particularly those most vulnerable. Readers who have not yet visited covid.dor.org are encouraged to do so and explore ongoing opportunities around the Diocese of Rochester.
There is much to do in the coming year, even as the challenges continue. Let us face those challenges together as disciples of our Lord. Under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may we boldly live the Gospel of Life this year, confident that we are transforming our culture to one that embraces, supports and promotes the gift that is human life.
Kilbridge is director of the Diocese of Rochester’s Office of Life Issues.