By Greg Schleppenbach
December 16, 2016
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.
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."
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.
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.