Going to the outskirts to encounter others, as Pope Francis asks, means confronting those great existential questions, being ready to give a reason for our hope when people ask: Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? What’s the point of it all?
Before getting to the hot button issues of today, as important as they are, we must address these foundational questions, counseled the Pope in his America interview. This is manifest from looking at our cultural landscape.
Some assert that life has no inherent meaning – “man is nothing else than what he makes of himself,” said Jean-Paul Sartre. This idea of choosing one’s own notion of existence is at the root of those cultural issues – the redefinition of marriage, the dehumanization of the unborn, and now the claim that a person can choose their own sex. Swept away are concepts of objective right and wrong and a moral imperative. Similar ideologies objectify man, saying that the usefulness of life determines its “value.” This utilitarianism underlies the movements advocating abortion and a “right to die.”
These ideas which find their imagination in sources alien to the Gospel have taken a hold in society. But they have not led to greater happiness. Rather their fruit is anxiety and despair. Detached from objective truth, people are struggling to find their way in the resulting darkness, fearing that man is “made for death,” as Martin Heidegger claimed.
It is clear that once God is removed from the equation, the understanding of humanity is altered. Thus, the New Evangelization must speak to what it means to be authentically human; it must point to our origin and essence.
What we offer people is hope – the good news that God exists and our own existence is not random and accidental. We are not at the mercy of arbitrary forces; chaos does not rule the universe. Rather, we exist because God brought us into being and breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7; Jeremiah 1:5). This is demonstrated not only in scripture, but by reason – the universe did not create itself and none of us can create life or bring it back once it is gone. It is a sacred gift from God.
Man is made for life. The author of life made us, not as some superfluous or futile act, but because he wants us to exist. “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being” (Wisdom 1:13-14).
Made in his image and likeness, God wants us to live because he loves each of us. It is this love which gives us life; it also points to the inherent dignity and meaning of all human life – to love and be loved. Indeed, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it,” observed Blessed John Paul II (Redemptor Hominis, 10).
We understand this most fully in Jesus Christ, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He shows this on the Cross, where, by that act of compassionate love, Christ brings eternal life. Here we see that the Gospel of Life is a Gospel of Love (Evangelium Vitae, 80-81).
Being “made for life” means bringing life to all we do, that is, it means loving in all we do. The fullness of love is by its very nature dynamic and creative, it seeks to burst out from itself and bring new life. This is the love for which we were made, to love as Jesus loves us. A life lived in faith cannot be barren and static. Living united to Christ calls us to share that love with those we encounter.
By our love, we satisfy the longings of people today, we answer those demanding questions of the heart, bringing a fuller vision of life than secular society provides. Through love, hearts can be changed and new life brought to the world.