Last Sunday morning, under the frescoed ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict XVI followed in Pope John Paul II's footsteps by celebrating 10 infant baptisms on the day when Roman Catholics remembered Christ's own baptism in the river Jordan.
Pope Benedict used the celebration to take up one of the rallying cries of his predecessor's pontificate: "In our times we need to say 'no' to the largely dominant culture of death."
Abandoning his prepared sermon, Benedict compared the wild excesses of the ancient Roman Empire to 21st-century society and urged people to rediscover their faith. Not your average baptismal homily!
"(There is) an anti-culture demonstrated by the flight to drugs, by the flight from reality, by illusions, by false happiness ... displayed in sexuality which has become pure pleasure devoid of responsibility," the Pontiff said.
"The anti-culture of death (in Rome) was a love of lies and of deceit. It was an abuse of the body as a commodity and as a product. Even in our times, there is this culture -- and we must say 'no' to it," he said. "To this seeming promise of happiness, to this apparent life which in reality is no more than an instrument of death, to this anti-culture, we say 'no' in order to cultivate the culture of life."
On Jan. 23, Canadians will choose a new government. It is very important to emphasize certain considerations that have not received necessary attention over the past few weeks of the political campaign. One of the most obvious concerns relates to the emerging "culture of death" in Canada, and the necessity to fight for the culture of life.
Our Canadian culture is often dominated by death: Today we witness a legal void that permits abortion right up to birth; medical research that authorizes the destruction of embryos; a mentality that increasingly favours euthanasia and assisted suicide; gratuitous violence in our schoolyards and on our downtown streets in broad daylight; abuse of women and children; the silence that surrounds so many situations of poverty; the widespread incidence of prostitution, pornography and drugs.
We are engaged in a war of the powerful against the weak.
The opposite of this powerful culture of death is the culture of life. Last Sunday, Pope Benedict affirmed that the "yes" to the culture of life is expressed in the Ten Commandments.
They "are not prohibitions, but a vision of life," he said. "'Yes' to the family, the fourth commandment; 'yes' to life, the fifth commandment; 'yes' to responsible love, the sixth commandment; 'yes' to solidarity, social responsibility and justice, the seventh commandment; 'yes' to truth, the eighth commandment; 'yes' to respect for others and for what belongs to them, ninth and 10th commandments. This is the philosophy and the culture of life that take concrete and practical form in communion with Christ."
Not bad ideas to think about as we prepare to vote.