THE PRO-LIFE VISION of SAINT PAUL

Saint Paul is Pro Life. He clearly affirms the goodness of all God’s creation and the goodness of enjoying the good things God has made. He condemns those who “forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving” while telling Saint Timothy that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:3-4). He tells the Corinthians to “eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for ‘the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s’” (1 Cor 10:25-26). Saint Paul tells the Romans that creation is not only good but makes known the goodness of God: “Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made” (Rom 1:20). He goes on to tell them that all God’s creation will share in the redemption of Christ: “Creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).

For Saint Paul, human life is God’s good creation and its enjoyment is a gift for which God is to be thanked. But, for Saint Paul, God’s gift of life is more than just the gift of creation. God’s greatest gift of life is the gift of new creation. “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Saint Paul applies this to himself when he says, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).

This new life, however, is lived in the midst of pain and sorrow, trials and tribulations. The “treasure” of the new life we live in Christ is held in mortal bodies, “earthen vessels,” so that we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (2 Cor 4:7-10). For Saint Paul, this state of affairs – the suffering that is part of life and part of new life in Christ – is not cause for regret or despair, but for joy. “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,” he says to the Colossians, “and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24). “I am content,” he tells the Corinthians, “with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor 12:10).

Saint Paul rejoices is God’s gift of new life in Christ whether it means thanking God for the enjoyments of life or sharing Christ’s suffering for the good of the Church. He rejoices always, whether he is living in abundance or in need (see Phil 4:4-12). He entrusts himself to the Lord whether in comfort or in need, whether in life or in death. To the Romans he says, “None of us lives of oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:7-8)

In regard to the question of living or dying, however, Saint Paul is not indifferent. He tells the Philippians, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:23). To the Corinthians he says, “In this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation . . . and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord” (2 Cor 5:2-8). But Saint Paul’s preference for the life to come does not lead him to forsake the present life. He sees the good in both living and dying, saying “For me, life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil 1:21). He is torn about which he should choose, for “if I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me” (Phil 1:22). Ultimately, he entrusts the matter to God, hopefully expecting that “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil 1:20) and confident that, by God’s providence, “I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil 1:25).

Saint Paul is Pro Life and we who share the faith of Saint Paul are invited to adopt his Pro-Life vision. We affirm the God-given goodness of creation in general and of human life in particular. We thank God for the gift of life and the enjoyment of life. We thank God even more the gift of new life in Christ Jesus and we rejoice in that gift whether we are feasting or fasting, content or in need, sharing Jesus’ transfiguration or his cross. But as much as we rejoice and give thanks for the life God gives in this world, whether the old life of creation or the new life of grace, we don’t cling to this life. Rather, we eagerly await the life to come, when, in Saint Paul’s words, we will be “further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4).

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