Pope Francis greets handicapped and disabled people following Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square June 16.
This weekend the Vatican held its “Day
Celebrating Evangelium Vitae,” inspired by the 1995 encyclical on “The
Gospel of Life” promulgated by Pope John Paul II. The event culminated with
Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square; below is Pope Francis’ homily from that Mass,
by Vatican Radio.
Brothers and Sisters,
celebration has a very beautiful name:“Evangelium Vitae”, the Gospel of Life. In this Eucharist, in the Year of Faith, let us thank the Lord for the gift of life in
all its forms, and at the same time let us proclaim the Gospel of Life.
the basis of the word of God which we have heard, I would like to offer you
three simple points of meditation for our faith: first, the Bible reveals to us
the Living God, the God who is life and the source of life; second, Jesus
Christ bestows life and the Holy Spirit maintains us in life; and third,
following God’s way leads to life, whereas following idols leads to death.
The first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, speaks to us of life
and death. King David wants to hide the act of adultery which he committed with
the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in his army. To do so, he gives the
order that Uriah be placed on the front lines and so be killed in battle. The
Bible shows us the human drama in all its reality: good and evil, passion, sin
and its consequences. Whenever we want to assert ourselves, when we become
wrapped up in our own selfishness and put ourselves in the place of God, we end
up spawning death. King David’s adultery is one example of this. Selfishness
leads to lies, as we attempt to deceive ourselves and those around us. But God
cannot be deceived. We heard how the prophet says to David: “Why have you done
evil in the Lord’s sight? (cf. 2 Sam 12:9). The King is forced to face his deadly
deeds; he recognizes them and he begs forgiveness: “I have sinned against the
Lord!” (v. 13). The God of mercy, who desires life, then forgives David,
restores him to life. The prophet tells him: “The Lord has put away your sin;
you shall not die”.
is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as
someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the
Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows
life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book
of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his
nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath
sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling
of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac
and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to
set his people free, he reveals his name: “I am who I am”, the God who enters
into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his
people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten
Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free
and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions, but a great
“Yes!”: a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled
in God alone. He is the Living One!
Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a
sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing
those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her
sins, saying: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but
he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God,
the one who brings life amid deeds of death, sin, selfishness and
self-absorption. Jesus accepts, loves, uplifts, encourages, forgives, restores
the ability to walk, gives back life. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus
by his words and actions brings the transforming life of God. This was the
experience of the woman who anointed the feet of the Lord with ointment: she
felt understood, loved, and she responded by a gesture of love: she let herself
be touched by God’s mercy, she obtained forgiveness and she started a new life.
was also the experience of the Apostle Paul, as we heard in the second reading:
“The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved
me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). What is this life? It is God’s own life.
And who brings us this life? It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen
Christ. The Spirit leads us into the divine life as true children of God, as
sons and daughters in the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Are we open to the
Holy Spirit? Do we let ourselves be guided by him? Christians are “spiritual”.
This does not mean that we are people who live “in the clouds”, far removed
from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! The Christian is someone
who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who
allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a
full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism
and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are
realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful;
their lives bring new life to birth all around them.
God is the Living One; Jesus brings us the life of God; the Holy Spirit gives
and keeps us in our new life as true sons and daughters of God. But all too
often, people do not choose life, they do not accept the “Gospel of Life” but
let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that
do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest,
profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others.
It is the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God,
without God’s life and love a new Tower of Babel. It is the idea that
rejecting God, the message of Christ, the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to
freedom, to complete human fulfilment. As a result, the Living God is replaced
by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but
in the end bring new forms of slavery and death. The wisdom of the Psalmist
says: “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment
of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19:8).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to God as the God of Life, let us
look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The
Living God sets us free! Let us say “Yes” to love and not selfishness. Let us
say “Yes” to life and not death. Let us say “Yes” to freedom and not
enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say “Yes” to the
God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; Jn 11:2; Jn 8:32). Only faith in the Living God saves us: in the
God who in Jesus Christ has given us his own life, and by the gift of the Holy
Spirit has enabled us to live as true sons and daughters of God. This faith
brings us freedom and happiness. Let us ask Mary, Mother of Life, to help us
receive and bear constant witness to the “Gospel of Life”.