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Protect, Love and Serve Life! Pope's Homily at Vigil of Prayer for All Nascent Human Life

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 29th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We have a great theologian in the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. He led a global prayer vigil for all human life in the womb. It is worth prayerfully reflecting upon as we enter into Advent and the mission of the Church to defend human life. In speaking of the embryonic person, he stated, 'This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being.'

ROME, Italy (Catholic Online) - The Vigil of Advent 2010 began in St. Peter's Basilica with Pope Benedict XVI leading what was called a "Vigil of Prayer for All Nascent Human Life."  Catholics throughout the world gathered in their local Churches, as well as in homes, monasteries and religious houses all over the world. The global Vigil was requested by Pope Benedict XVI. It underscores the unqualified and unequivocal commitment of the Catholic Church to the defense of every human life, from conception, throughout every age and stage, up to and including a natural death.

In his homily, Pope Benedict called the faithful to defend all human life, including embryonic human life. In fact,a human embryo is a human being, in development as we all are. The Pope noted that "there are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being."

He cautioned against the growing "darkening of consciences" and proclaimed with clarity and conviction to the whole world that the child in the first home of the whole human race, his or her mothers womb, "has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought."

The fathers of the Church referred to the Christian faith, and the sacraments of the church, as "the mysteries." They are beyond words, inexhaustible in their depth of meaning, like a rich feast that never ends and a deep ocean of wonder into which we are invited to wade. We can never touch the bottom. The Incarnation is the very heart of the Mystery of the entire Christian Faith. The God, who made the whole universe and created man out of the dust of the earth, took on our humanity. He lived in the first home of every human person, His mother's womb.

Those first nine months of His life made every human pregnancy even more profoundly a "mystery." There was a Redeemer in the womb of Mary! God was an embryonic human person, a "fetus," and a child in the womb. In the light of this "mystery" every human pregnancy, every womb, every child in the womb, was forever elevated beyond the dignity it already possessed. Also, the extreme evil of abortion is made even more obvious and profane. This Redeemer in the womb, Jesus, began His saving work "in utero" and He identifies with every child in the womb.

We have a great theologian and man of deep faith in the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. We offer his entire homily for our global readers as we begin the first full week of Advent, preparing for the Nativity of the Lord. It is well worth prayerfully reflecting upon so that we can enter more fully into the mission of the Church, the defender of every human life.

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Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the Vigil of Prayer for Nascent Human Life, Advent 2010

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening's celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man.

This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and - in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church's liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, "announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again" we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: "Come, Lord Jesus "(22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages.

The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself - St. Paul writes - "make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ "(5:23).

Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfillment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. " Christ, the final Adam, - says the Second Vatican Council - by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.... by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. "(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests.

The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church's concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care " (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary's womb, so it was for all of us in our mother's womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: " he who will be a man is already one" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II's passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual:

"respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!"(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ's body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

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