Be agents of hope in ‘culture of death’


In his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” St. Pope John Paul II described the ethos of the world as a “culture of death.” Given the current moral state of much of our world today, the 1995 document seems sadly prophetic.

Amid daily news reports of mass shootings, war crimes, and the escalation of religious persecution, St. Pope John Paul’s assessment of a world philosophy that has gone terribly wrong is be- coming more ominous by the day.

Rampant disregard for human life seems to have taken on a life of its own. One might wonder how we got here.

When the pope penned his encyclical, he was referring to the widespread practice of abortion and a growing acceptance of euthanasia.

At the time of its publication, Cardinal Joseph L. Bernadin described it as a “Teaching for the entire world.” However, rather than taking the words of the saint to heart, proponents of abortion now disguise it as a woman’s right to choose, and euthanasia is considered an act of compassion.

In dressing up disobedience to God as personal freedom, Satan is perpetuating the great lie, using the same tactics he did with Adam and Eve.

However, just as the sin of Adam and Eve could not diminish God’s love for his people, so our sins cannot estrange us from the love of God, who assured us that forgiveness is always possible. Nevertheless, God’s mercy should not lead to presumption or complacency on our part.

I recently read where busyness has become the new sloth when it comes to prayer and our relationship with God. What the author meant was that busyness, as often as laziness, provides us with an excuse not to go to Mass, spend time in prayer, or help a neighbor in need.

As long as I stay busy, I don’t have to think about the state of my soul or what God might be asking of me. The author, Lauren F. Winner, makes a good point. It seems a lot of discretionary time is spent trying to keep from being bored.

Instead of prioritizing time with God at the center of our life, God gets sidelined. It’s little wonder then that a restless boredom sets in, and that family values, the sanctity of life and our true identities as sons and daughters of God become irrelevant and seemingly outdated.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about artificial intelligence. While in Hungary, Pope Francis addressed the students and faculty at a university in Budapest that is the center of research for information technology and bionic science that specializes in genetics.

During his speech, Pope Francis warned of the dangers of hedonistic, conformist freedom that enslaves people to material objects and practices.

The way forward, said Pope Francis, “is truth and the key to accessing truth is knowledge that is never detached from love of God and neighbor, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

He urged the audience to defeat world conformism with the Gospel. In a way he was echoing the words of St. Pope John Paul in “Evangelium Vitae,” which translated means the “Gospel of Life.”

Forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven, but not before promising to send the Holy Spirit as an Advocate. Jesus knew how difficult it would be to forge a path against cultural winds, and so he promised to be with us until the end of time.

We cannot give into pessimism, for as Christians, we are people of hope. There is much
to celebrate in this world that is good and holy, and ironically, that can include suffering. Rather than banishing suffering from life, we are called to look to Jesus who suffered and died for us because we are broken by sin.

To be a Christian means that we have discovered our true identity is in Christ, because everything else will pass away. Many in the early Church suffered and died for the faith because they believed that their suffering was a self-giving participation in the sorrows of the world and that when united with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, they were redemptive.

Such divinely inspired acts of love are sourced in the Holy Spirit, which we received at baptism and confirmation, but unless they are cultivated, they will be of little help when we need them most.

The apostles spend nine days praying and preparing for the first Pentecost. May we as members
of the Church prepare for the Feast of Pentecost by prayerfully renewing our commitment to
all that is good in this world so that we will become agents of hope and instruments of love in a world desperately in need.

Barbara Hughes is an author, retreat facilitator and spiritual guide. She lives in Virginia Beach and can be reached at [email protected].

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