From Tom Venzor: In lieu of my normal column, this week’s columnist is Lauren Garcia, the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s Communications & Outreach Specialist. Lauren provides a beautiful reflection on finding love in the ruins of a broken culture of death and seeing the face of Christ and allowing Him to transform our vision, so that we can assist Him in the work of building a culture of life. Enjoy!
As many pro-life advocates and leaders celebrated Alabama and Georgia passing laws to uphold the dignity of unborn life, Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters in states across the country recently organized rallies to “fight back against abortion bans.” Nebraska was no exception. Last Tuesday, hundreds of women, men, children, and politicians assembled in the rotunda of the Nebraska State Capitol building to celebrate abortion.
In addition to those promoting so-called “abortion rights,” there was a small but powerful pro-life contingency holding signs reading “Remember the Unborn” and some covert onlookers (me) there to listen, observe, and silently pray.
As I looked around, amidst the loud cheers for greater abortion access and crude signs held up by ralliers (I’ll spare you the exact phrases written on signs), I thought, “This is what the culture of death looks like: noisy, unreasonable, unrelenting, and obscene.”
I listened as Omaha State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh explained that when she found out she was pregnant with her third child, she exercised “[her] choice and [her] right” to keep her baby. But her message implied that she could have easily, and rightfully, chosen abortion. While many of us may hear that and be repulsed by it, we must remember that in a culture of death, abortion and euthanasia are viewed as individual rights or freedoms.
Abortion rights advocates fight so tirelessly for this “freedom,” not realizing that it’s not freedom at all, but slavery. And in our post-Christian culture, we have no moral compass or even a clear distinction of good and evil to discern this fact. Even with encouraging legislation or election results federally and locally, it seems like we are losing the culture war and, more importantly, countless eternal souls. Faced with such a bleak outlook, what are we to do?
In just over a year, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul the Great’s pivotal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). In this tremendous work, John Paul II reminds us that we must recommit ourselves to not only defending against the pervasive Culture of Death but to building and authentically living the Gospel of Life. This means respecting, defending, and promoting the dignity of every human life, at every condition of life. JPII explains that in a culture so far gone what is needed is a renewal of “recapturing the ultimate meaning of life and its fundamental values.”
Of course, the center of the meaning of life and its fundamental value is Jesus himself, who tells us that he “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). If we want to transform the culture, we must first allow Jesus to transform us, to create within us a new heart and a new mind.
I am so grateful that Our Lord sought me and found me, so that I may see with His eyes and love with His heart, even when it causes me to grieve and recoil amid a truly evil political demonstration like the one last Tuesday. But because I still find it all too common to roll my eyes at defenders of abortion or allow resentment for the state of things to grow inside me, He and I still have a lot of work to do in order to better engage in authentic relationships with my neighbors, especially those with whom I disagree.
God wants to work with and through each of us to bring about a renewal in this world. So, I ask all people of faith and committed to life to join me in begging the Lord’s mercy, inviting Him into our hearts, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us as we ask each day, “How will I live the Gospel of Life today?”