My friends, it’s great to be with you. I am grateful for this chance to talk about the beautiful cause of life in our time.
I know some of you were able to be in Los Angeles last weekend for our second annual OneLife LA procession and family festival. It was really a great day of grace and peace — more than 20,000 from across Los Angeles and Southern California, so many families and so many young people, so much joy and enthusiasm.
We conceived of OneLife LA as much more than a one-day event. For me, OneLife LA is a vision for how we move forward in the future in proclaiming the Gospel of life in our culture — which, sadly we all know, is growing more and more secular and more callous with regard to human life and dignity.
St. John Paul II, in his great work, The Gospel of Life, pointed out one of the great ironies and tragedies of our times. He wrote: “Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.”
The great pope is right. Never before has there been so much talk about human freedom and dignity and self-realization. And yet we find ourselves more and more indifferent to the cruelty and injustice that we see all around us.
This includes grave crimes against human life — widespread abortion at every stage, even in the final hours of a pregnancy; experimentation with human embryos; the “quiet” euthanasia of the old and sick.
But we can also talk about the injustice of racial discrimination; unemployment and homelessness; the pollution of our environment — especially in poor and minority communities.
We can talk about the violence in our neighborhoods; the epidemic of drugs; the crisis of hope among our young people. The scandalous conditions in our prisons; the death penalty; deportations and the injustices of our immigration system.
I am not trying to say that all of these issues are “equal.” They are not. And we always need to be clear about that.
The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent unborn life through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Abortion and euthanasia raise basic questions of human rights and social justice in our society. Questions of what kind of society we are and what kind of people we want to be.
So the Church must proclaim, in every time and place —that the right to life is the foundation of every other right and the true foundation of justice and peace in society.
If the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of — then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights.
But my friends, we need to acknowledge that the evils of abortion and euthanasia exist in a wider, cultural context, in which more and more we are losing the sense of our common humanity and our responsibility for others.
So that is why I think we need a new vision for our efforts, one that is broader and more inclusive. That’s what we’re trying to do with OneLife LA.
I am not talking about the “seamless garment” or “consistent ethic of life.” No. That’s not the vision we need. Because in practice the “seamless garment” and “consistent ethic” result in a mistaken idea that all issues are morally equivalent. And of course, they are not. So in everything we need to be clear that the root violence in our society is the violence against those who are not yet born and those who are at the end of their lives.
This vision is spiritual not political. And because it is spiritual, it makes no sense for there to be any division between our “pro-life” efforts and our work for “social justice.” In the face of the suffering and human need in the world, we cannot compartmentalize our compassion or draw lines between those we will care about and those we will not.
The cause of life is greater than the limitations of our political categories. We want a new culture, not a new political coalition.
In my opinion, the future of the pro-life movement is cultural not politics. We need to be thinking more in terms of changing our culture. We need to be working towards a new Christian humanism, a new vision of society and human destiny that is rooted in the Gospel.
We need to deepen our appreciation that the Gospel of life is not it’s own “gospel” or a subdivision of the Gospel. The Gospel of life is the core of God’s beautiful plan of love for creation and for every human life that he revealed in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of life is part of what the early Church called the “kerygma,” the core teaching of the faith.
Pope Francis has summarized this kerygma beautifully: “ Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”
This is the “good news” that we are called to proclaim to our society. And at the heart of that good news is a revelation — about the beauty of human life, the sanctity of the human person, and the mystery of God’s love and the mercy he extends to us to us in Jesus.
The kerygma is the good news that God is One and God is Love. And God gives life to each of us because he loves us. And God wants us to build a beautiful world of love and life!
In Jesus, God has shown his own face as a human person — a person who began his human life in the womb and grew up in a loving family. Jesus taught us the truth that every human life has precious value and meaning in God’s creation.
So the point for us — again — is not political. It is spiritual.
The Gospel of life is part of the Christian mission — the mission that Jesus gave to his Church.
So we need to stay close to Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And he came to bring us new life, abundant life!
To follow Jesus means we have a duty to welcome and protect life and to care for life — every life! Because every life is loved by God — especially those who are poor and forgotten, and those who are alone and excluded. With God’s love — there are no boundaries, no borders, no barriers!
This what I mean by a new Christian “humanism.” Jesus changes everything! The Incarnation changes everything. It changes what we know about God. What we know about the human person.
Jesus taught us the revolutionary truth that every person we meet bears God’s image and every person deserves to be loved and cared for as God loves them and cares for them.
From Jesus, we learn that life begins long before we are born. Every life begins as a thought of love in the mind of God. So every life is precious and every life is sacred — the child in a mother’s womb, the person who has disabilities, the one who is old or sick; the homeless, the prisoner, the immigrant and refugee.
Here is where the Gospel becomes a social Gospel. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not our health or wealth or our “status” in society. We are all children of God! And Jesus taught us that our faith is never private. We cannot say we love God if we do not love our neighbors.
To drive that point home, Jesus told us that we will be judged by the love we show to those who most challenge our comfort and way of life — the homeless, the immigrant, the sick, the prisoner.
The Gospel of Jesus — the good news of the Fatherhood of God — is the most radical doctrine in the history of ideas. If we really believed that God is our Father and that every person is a child of God made in his image — the world could be changed overnight.
God is our Father and he sees only his children. And when one of God’s children is suffering or in danger, he calls the rest of us to love and compassion.
In the Scriptures, God shows us that his priorities are always with those in society who are most defenseless — the widow, the orphan, the stranger. That is why the Church has spoken up for the child in the womb since the early days in the Roman Empire.
And that is why still today, as I said earlier, the Church regards abortion and euthanasia as grave evils and the most fundamental injustice in our society.
But in our times, as I said, we need to make our work against abortion and euthanasia the foundation for building a great force for life of life in our society.
This is our vision for OneLife LA. But I think this also needs to be our vision for the pro-life movement in the future.
We condemn abortion and assisted suicide because it is the direct killing of innocent human life. As Pope Francis has said: “It is not licit to eliminate a human life to solve a problem. … [It is] a sin against God the Creator: think hard about this.”
But the movement for life is not a protest movement. Our message is not a “no.” It is a “yes.” We don’t to dwell on the ugliness and violence of the culture of death, we want to hold up the beauty and peace of the Kingdom of life. We are not “against” abortion, we are “for” the beautiful vision of human dignity and human destiny given to us by Jesus.
That means we need to build friendships and be in dialogue with those who disagree with us. We can’t negotiate about good and evil. That’s not what I mean about dialogue. But we do need to work with and to talk to people who may not share our full vision of a culture of life — or at least people who don’t share our vision yet. We have to be optimistic that truth — lived with joy — will lead to conversions and new ways of thinking.
Our mission is also a mission of mercy in our society. We need to restore te sense of mercy in our own lives and in our society. Mercy for those who make mistakes. Mercy for those who are inconvenient and unexpected. Mercy for those who impose a burden on our way of life.
My friends, God is calling us to complete his great plan of love, his great plan for creation. God is calling us to go out into our world, just like Jesus did — reaching into the darkest corners of our society, where there is so much suffering and pain. We need to go out into our world, as Jesus does. To love as he loves, to show mercy to others as God shows mercy to us.
We need to reach out in love to the woman who is pregnant and who is feeling lost and alone. To the refugee and the immigrant; to the prisoner, the homeless, the sick and the disabled. To the elderly and those who suffering and crying for help.
We need to build a community of conscience. To defend life and protect life. All human life. Beginning with the weakest and most vulnerable, we need to call our society to respect the sanctity and dignity of human life — in all its stages and in every condition.
No one should go unnoticed or unloved in our society! No one should feel excluded or like they are a burden or an inconvenience. Wherever dignity is denied, wherever people are in slavery — that’s where we need to be as a Catholic community, and as believers in Jesus Christ.
So my friends, thank you for everything you are doing for the cause of life, for the Gospel of life!
We need to stick together and we need to keep going. We need to keep encouraging one another and strengthening one another and praying for one another.
My friends, let’s keep working together to build a culture of life. To show that God’s love embraces every life, and especially those lives that are vulnerable and weak, and those who cannot care for themselves.
God bless you and your families, and may Our Lady of Guadalupe continue to guide us to build a culture of life in our time, so that we can see the beauty and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death.