We continue the exposition of John Paul’s teaching on questions concerning the sacredness of human life.
In the first chapter of Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II surveys the bleak landscape of the contemporary world, a landscape marked by unprecedented attacks on human life and human dignity. However, even in the midst of this ‘culture of death’ there are signs of hope—a hope that is rooted in the One who came to bring life to the world: Jesus Christ.
The first premise of this ‘gospel of life’ is that ‘[Human] Life is always a good’ (34.1), because it reflects and shows forth the goodness of its Creator: God. Humans are made in God’s ‘image and likeness’ and St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century, remarked that ‘Man, fully alive, is the glory of God’ (34.2). Tragically, sin has tarnished the image of God in man, but for those who have committed themselves to following Christ, in them ‘the divine image is restored, renewed, and brought to perfection’, fulfilling God’s desire that all should ‘be conformed to the image of his [God’s] Son (Rom. 8:29)’ (36.4). Christians know that human life is sacred because it has its origin in God, its restoration to the image of God made possible through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and its glorious destiny set before it – to have an eternal life of loving union with God. St. Irenaeus wrote of this destiny when he taught ‘the life of man consists in the vision of God’ (Adversus Haereses, IV, 207).