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As we celebrate the birth of our Lord, the introduction from Pope Saint John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae provides a rich source of reflection on God's love for human life, which He created in His image and likeness:
"At the dawn of salvation, it is the birth of a child which is proclaimed as joyful news: 'I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord' (Lk. 2:10-11). The source of this 'great joy' is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn. 16:21)."
It is amazing to contemplate that the eternal Son of God became man and experienced every stage and aspect of the human condition, except sin. He was conceived in the Virgin Mary and took the form of a human being, beginning life like every human being—as a single-celled embryo.
According to Scripture, after the Incarnation of our Lord, Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Given that it would have taken two to three days for Mary to reach Elizabeth, it's possible that Jesus had not yet implanted in Mary's womb (implantation occurs 5-7 days after conception) when His presence caused John to stir in Elizabeth's womb: "For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:44).
C. S. Lewis provides another source of reflection on the sanctity of all human life in The Weight of Glory: "The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. … There are no ordinary people. ... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses."
With these thoughts in mind, I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord in a humble stable in Bethlehem, and to celebrate the gift of every human life, than to support a local pregnancy help center or maternity home. These centers do extraordinary work and truly represent the heart of the pro-life movement's goal of making abortion unthinkable.
Another way to make a difference is through our prayers and sacrifices. Taking place January 21-29, 2017, 9 Days for Life (www.9daysforlife.com) is the U.S. bishops' annual period of prayer and action for life. Each day of the novena provides a different intercession, reflection, information item and suggested action. The novena is available in English and Spanish, and can be received in four ways: a free mobile app, text message, email, or social media.
May the good news of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ bring great joy to all—comforting the afflicted, deepening respect for all human life, and strengthening us to share the Gospel of Life.
Greg Schleppenbach is Associate Director at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information about the bishops' pro-life activities, visit: www.usccb.org/prolife.
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