The Eucharist and the Defense
of the Gospel of Life
Alfonso Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo
President, Pontifical Council for the Family
July 19, 1998
My dear friends,
I take this occasion to once again express gratitude to the Apostolate for
Family Consecration, and especially to Jerry and Gwen Coniker, for organizing
this Conference and for inviting my participation.
We have already reflected on the privileged duty which the family has of
handing on the Gospel through family catechesis and prayer. Your multi-faceted
work likewise emphasizes how the family is called to evangelize society. You
give special emphasis, especially in the Be Not Afraid Holy Hours, on the
role of the Eucharist in uniting and strengthening the family as an evangelizing
community, and on the role of the family in restoring respect for life in
society. You seek to give hope to the family when it encounters difficulties in
its vocation of handing on the Gospel. Let us therefore spend some time
reflecting together on these themes.
The Family and the Defense of Life
Humanity today, despite all its technical and scientific progress,
appears more cruel and inhuman than ever.
Today, as you already know, there are more than 50 million innocent children
eliminated by the crime of abortion each year. It is as if each year entire the
population of Italy were liquidated, in the worse and cruelest war.
It is a war against the most defenseless and innocent, who have a right to
live. It is a fundamental right that nobody can deny.
This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. It is an important occasion to defend the life that
is threatened and at risk.
The bottom line of the problem is the denial of the rights of the human
being. From the moment of conception the "nascitino," the conceived, is an image
of God and is called to be, through Baptism, a child of God.
The Holy Father teaches that there are two inseparable Gospels: The Gospel of
the Family, the Good News for everybody, the spouses, the children and the
society! And there is also the Gospel of Life: Human life is a gift from God
that only belongs to the Creator. Human life is sacred. The human being is not a
thing, is not an instrument that one can use, manipulate and throw away. Nobody
can have at one's disposal the life of an innocent human being. John Paul II's
encyclical Evangelium Vitae is a great and historic defense of human
The Church defends human life with love and with courage, and announces this
wonderful gift that the family must also proclaim, announce and defend. There is
no greater wealth, dear parents, than your children! The Church defends the life
of everybody, especially the poorest, the weakest and the most in need, the
children not yet born, the sick, the life of the elderly. Today there is the
temptation to get rid of all of them because they are seen as a burden for
society and for the family itself.
The Church reminds us that as persons they have been redeemed by Christ and
also for them He has given His life. He loved me and He gave His life
for me! He also did so for the sick, for the despised one. What is the key
and the reason for the prominent value of the human being? The key is that
he/she is a person loved by God…so much loved and in such measure that Jesus
redeemed him/her in the cross.
Nobody, no authority, no human power, no Parliament, no government, can
arrogate to oneself the authority and the right to treat people as things and
decide that they don't have a right to live.
It is a scandal not only for the believers but also for any person, to hear
about the increase in the crimes against the poorest and the most in need.
A Great Campaign on Behalf of Life
The defense of life, the culture of life, finds its biggest support in
families. The family institution has as a mission to defend life, the educate it
and to bring it to its fullness.
You are very aware of the call which the Church has given us through
Evangelium Vitae, to engage in "a great campaign on behalf of life."
This Encyclical calls on the family in a particular way to be the means through
which the restoration of the Culture of Life takes place. Indeed, the Holy
Father points out that one of the reasons that abortion and euthanasia are
particularly terrible crimes is that they occur within the family, which is the
sanctuary of life. He therefore goes on to assert, "Within the ‘people of
life and the people for life,’ the family has a decisive responsibility. This
responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love…As the
domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the
Gospel of Life"(EV n.92).
The Eucharist and the Defense of Life
The Eucharist teaches the families and moves them to the defense of life.
Let's look at some points in this regard.
In a particular way, you who are present at this Conference know how families
are strenghtened in this call by worshiping the Eucharist together. Such worship
draws the members closer to each other in the bonds of charity which constitute
the essence of strong families. The practice of family holy hours, promoted by
this Apostolate, inserts the family into the daily mission of the Church to
advance the Gospel of Life.
The Church could not exist without the Eucharist. Likewise for the Christian
family. Its sustenance comes from the Body and Blood of the Lord. Its mission,
also, to be the Domestic Church, is founded upon the Eucharist and leads back to
the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of all the life and activity of
The commitment of the family to advance the Culture of Life
receives its form and sustenance from the Eucharist as a sacrament of faith,
unity, life, worship, and love.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of faith. The Consecrated Host
looks no different after the consecration than before. It looks, smells, feels,
and tastes like bread. Only one of the five senses gets to the truth. As St.
Thomas' Adoro Te Devote
expresses, "Seeing, touching, tasting are in Thee deceived. What says trusty
hearing, that shall be believed?" The ears hear His words, "This is My Body;
this is My Blood," and faith takes us beyond the veil of appearances.
Christians are used to looking beyond appearances. The baby
in the manger does not look like God; nor for that matter does the man on the
cross. Yet by faith we know He is no mere man. The Bible does not have a
particular glow setting it off from other books, yet by faith we know it is
uniquely the Word of God. The Eucharist seems to be bread and wine, and yet by
faith we say, "My Lord and My God!" as we kneel in adoration.
The same dynamic of faith that enables us to see beyond
appearances in these mysteries enables us to see beyond appearances in our
neighbor. We can look at the persons around us, at the annoying person or the
ugly person or the person who is unconscious in a hospital bed, and we can say,
"Christ is there as well. There is my bother, my sister, made in the very image
of God!" By the same dynamic we can look at the pre-born child and say, "There,
too, is my brother, my sister, equal in dignity and just as worthy of protection
as anyone else!" Some people will say the child in the womb, especially in the
earliest stages, is too small to be the subject of Constitutional rights. Is the
Sacred Host too small to be God, too unlike Him in appearance to be worshipped?
The slightest particle of the Host is fully Christ. Eucharistic Faith is a
powerful antidote to the dangerous notion that value depends on size, or power,
or any other quality. To be, and not to have, is the source of
Imagine all the people, in every part of the world, who are
receiving Communion today. Are they each receiving something different? Are they
not rather each receiving the one and only Christ? Through this sacrament,
Christ the Lord, gloriously enthroned in heaven, is drawing all people to
Himself. If He is drawing us to Himself, then He is drawing us to one another.
St. Paul comments on this, "We, many though we are, are one body, since we all
partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other "brothers and
sisters," we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity
between children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even
stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do
have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we
become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for
our own bodies.
This is the unity of the family: we have found that we are
children of God. We can cry out, "Abba," that is, "Father!" The
Spirit Himself gives witness with our Spirit that we are children of God (see
Rom.8:16). All are children.
Imagine a person who receives Communion, accepts the Host,
but then breaks off a piece of it and returns it to the priest. This represents
what happens if someone rejects other people whom Christ has redeemed! In
receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members,
our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or
As St. John remarks, Christ was to die "to gather into one
all the scattered children of God." Sin scatters. Christ unites. The word
"diabolical" means "to split asunder." Christ came "to destroy the works of the
devil" (1Jn.3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ who says,
"Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body." Abortion, in a reverse dynamic,
says, "Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no
responsibility for you. Get out of our way!" Abortion attacks the unity of the
human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any
two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses
the dynamic of abortion.
The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life. "I am the Bread of
Life. He who eats this bread will live forever. I will raise Him up on the last
day." (See Jn.6:47-58) The Eucharistic sacrifice is the very action of Christ by
which He destroyed our death and restored our life. Whenever we gather for this
sacrifice we are celebrating the victory of life over death, and therefore over
abortion. The pro-life movement is not simply working "for" victory; we are
working "from" victory. As the Holy Father said in Denver in 1993, "Have no
fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided." Our work is to
apply the already established victory to every facet of our society. Celebrating
the Eucharist is the source and summit of such work.
The Eucharist is the Supreme act of Worship of God. Two
lessons each person needs to learn are, "1.There is a God. 2. It isn't me." The
Eucharist, as the perfect sacrifice, acknowledges that God is God, and that "it
is [His] right to receive the obedience of all creation." (Sacramentary, Preface
for Weekdays III). Abortion, on the contrary, proclaims that a mother's choice
is supreme. "Freedom of choice" is considered enough to justify even the
dismemberment of a baby. Choice divorced from truth is idolatry. It is the
opposite of true worship. It pretends the creature is God. Real freedom is found
only in submission to the truth and will of God. Real freedom is not the ability
to do whatever one pleases, but the power to do what is right.
The Eucharist is, finally, The Sacrament of Love. St. John
explains, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for
us" (1Jn.3:16). Christ teaches, "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay
down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13). The best symbol of love is not the
heart, but rather the crucifix.
Abortion is the exact opposite of love. Love says, "I
sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says, "I sacrifice
the other person for the good of myself." In the Eucharist we see the meaning of
love and receive the power to live it. The very same words, furthermore, that
the Lord uses to teach us the meaning of love are also used by those who promote
abortion: "This is my body." These four little words are spoken from opposite
ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Christ gives His body away
so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others
might die. Christ says "This is My Body given up for you; This is My
Blood shed for you." These are the words of sacrifice; these are the
words of love.
In Washington in 1994 Mother Teresa said that we fight
abortion by teaching the mother what love really means: "to be willing to give
until it hurts...So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to
love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect
the life of her child."
Gustave Thibon has said that the true God transforms violence
into suffering, while the false god transforms suffering into violence. The
woman tempted to have an abortion will transform her suffering into violence
unless she allows love to transform her, and make her willing to give herself
away. The Eucharist gives both the lesson and the power. Mom is to say "This is
my body, my blood, my
life, given up for you my child."
Normally, the women are rather victims of the evil conscience
Everyone who wants to fight abortion needs to say the same.
We need to exercise the same generosity we ask the mothers to exercise. We need
to imitate the mysteries we celebrate. "Do this in memory of me" applies to all
of us in the sense that we are to lovingly suffer with Christ so others may
live. We are to be like lightning rods in the midst of this terrible storm of
violence and destruction, and say, "Yes, Lord, I am willing to absorb some of
this violence and transform it by love into personal suffering, so that others
Indeed, the Eucharist gives the pro-life movement its
marching orders. It also provides the source of its energy, which is love.
Indeed, if the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, then it is nothing
at all. But if it is a movement of love, then nothing will stop it, for "Love is
stronger than death, more powerful even than hell" (Song of Songs 8:6).
My brothers and sisters, strong families are the hope of our
world, and we must therefore build those strong families with a great sense of
hope. To see the evils in the world must not cause us to flee the world, but
rather to actively engage it in the dialogue of salvation.
As a stimulus to that hope, may I conclude by turning your attention to the
Third World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in Rome, which the
Pontifical Council for the Family will sponsor in the Fall of the Jubilee Year
2000. This encounter, marked by a Theological-Pastoral Congress, by a
celebration of the Word of God and festive praise with the Successor of Peter,
and by a Papal Eucharistic Liturgy, is a moment of great grace which can serve
to deepen understanding, commitment, and unity among those who work for the
cause of life and family. Such was the case with the previous two encounters,
the first held in Rome in the International Year of the Family (1994), and the
second held just last year in Rio de Janeiro. It is my fervent hope that many of
you, joined by many others throughout the United States, will be able to make
this pilgrimage of faith to Rome in the year 2000, to gather in prayer with
other families from around the world.
May the Lord abundantly bless you, your families, and this
most crucial work that you do for His Kingdom!
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