Living the Gospel of Life
All of us who are people of faith, committed to Jesus Christ by our baptism, are called to live the Gospel. The Gospel is not just something to be believed or something for the mind to wrestle with. It is something that shapes our lives.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, speaks during the Silent No More gathering in front of the Supreme Court at the 2018 March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Can we declare portions of our lives to be Gospel-free zones?
The answer can be found in Living the Gospel of Life, the 1998 document published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops three years after then-Pope John Paul II published The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). The bishops' document applied the pope's teaching to American Catholics.
All of us who are people of faith, committed to Jesus Christ by our baptism, are called to live the Gospel. The Gospel is not just something to be believed, or something for the mind to wrestle with. It is something that shapes our lives. The first word of the document's title - "living" - is a tremendous challenge in and of itself. It tells us to live out this Gospel. It urges us to let the Lord, who is himself the Gospel, shape what we decide; how we live, and what our priorities, desires and plans are.
Living the Gospel means living it in all of our choices, not only in our religious practice but in our spiritual lives as well.
What's the difference?
If someone is going to Mass, or reading the Bible, or praying the rosary, we call that their religious practice or religious life. A person's spiritual life is distinct from that. It includes those religious practices but a person's spiritual life is defined by whether or not one is coming closer to God or moving further away from Him, growing in virtue, or growing in vice.
This is the spiritual life. Every choice we make, every hour of the day, every day of the year, will bring us closer into our relationship with Jesus Christ or farther away. Spiritual life covers everything.
In Living the Gospel of Life, the bishops teach that there is no Gospel-free zone. Our leisure time, as well as the time we spend sleeping, traveling or working, are part of our spiritual lives. Our political lives, in particular, cannot be seen as Gospel-free zones. We must live out the Gospel in our political choices.
Our choices in the voting booth bring us closer to God, or farther away from Him. Our political choices either live the Gospel or contradict the Gospel.
Some people think politics and religion don't mix but one of the things this document tells us is that politics and religion do mix. If we are living the Gospel, it will shape the way we vote for and the causes we champion. Living the Gospel means that we do not elect those who contradict the fundamental requirements of the Gospel for public service - the first such requirement being that one knows the difference between serving the public and killing the public.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. bishops issued an important challenge to Americans, the challenge of living out the Gospel. They understood that you and I who are citizens of this nation can, in fact, be good Americans and good Catholics at the same time. We never have to choose between following our faith and following the law. A good Catholic is meant to be, at the same time, a good citizen who follows just laws in our society.
A follower of Christ says yes not only to the church but also to the state. While it is only to God that we give our absolute obedience if a law is just and it does not contradict the law of God, we are obliged to follow it. But if another human being asks us to do something wrong, even if that person is a president or governor or judge, we say no.
That is why policies that permit abortion can never be acknowledged as valid, and why those who support such policies should not be supported in the voting booth.
The bishops did not create this document to tell people to join one political party or another.
They are teaching, in a pastoral way, what it means to live out the Gospel. Our responsibility, then, is to take these principles and use them to judge candidates and political parties. Look at each party and its platform. Examine each candidate and his or her policies. Then make a judgment with a mind and conscience informed by the Gospel of Life. Make sure each vote brings you closer to God.
To order a copy of Living the Gospel of Life, or a study guide on the document prepared by the Pastoral Team at Priests for Life, and to find video commentary on it, go to GospelofLife.net.
Priests for Life is the world's largest Catholic organization focused exclusively on ending abortion.