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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Evangelium vitae

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"If you would enter life, keep the commandments" ( [link] Mt 19:17): Gospel and commandment


52. "And behold, one came up to him, saying, ?Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?' " ( [link] Mt 19:6). Jesus replied, "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" ( [link] Mt 19:17). The Teacher is speaking about eternal life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself. This life is attained through the observance of the Lord's commandments, including the commandment "You shall not kill". This is the first precept from the Decalogue which Jesus quotes to the young man who asks him what commandments he should observe: "Jesus said, ?You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal...' " ( [link] Mt 19:18).

God's commandment is never detached from his love: it is always a gift meant for man's growth and joy. As such, it represents an essential and indispensable aspect of the Gospel, actually becoming "gospel" itself: joyful good news. The Gospel of life is both a great gift of God and an exacting task for humanity. It gives rise to amazement and gratitude in the person graced with freedom, and it asks to be welcomed, preserved and esteemed, with a deep sense of responsibility. In giving life to man, God demands that he love, respect and promote life. The gift thus becomes a commandment, and the commandment is itself a gift.

Man, as the living image of God, is willed by his Creator to be ruler and lord. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that "God made man capable of carrying out his role as king of the earth ... Man was created in the image of the One who governs the universe. Everything demonstrates that from the beginning man's nature was marked by royalty... Man is a king. Created to exercise dominion over the world, he was given a likeness to the king of the universe; he is the living image who participates by his dignity in the perfection of the divine archetype".38 Called to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over other lesser creatures (cf.  [link] Gen 1:28), man is ruler and lord not only over things but especially over himself, 39 and in a certain sense, over the life which he has received and which he is able to transmit through procreation, carried out with love and respect for God's plan. Man's lordship however is not absolute, but ministerial: it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite lordship of God. Hence man must exercise it with wisdom and love, sharing in the boundless wisdom and love of God. And this comes about through obedience to God's holy Law: a free and joyful obedience (cf.  [link] Ps 119), born of and fostered by an awareness that the precepts of the Lord are a gift of grace entrusted to man always and solely for his good, for the preservation of his personal dignity and the pursuit of his happiness.

With regard to things, but even more with regard to life, man is not the absolute master and final judge, but rather - and this is where his incomparable greatness lies - he is the "minister of God's plan".40

Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well. Man must render an account of it to his Master (cf.  [link] Mt 25:14-30;  [link] Lk 19:12-27).


38 De Hominis Opificio, 4: PG 44, 136.

39 Cf. Saint John Damascene, De Fide Orthodoxa, 2, 12: PG 94, 920.922, quoted in Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Prologue.

40 Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968), 13: AAS 60 (1968), 489.

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