Christ Teaches Us How to Die, Redux

ChelseaAssisted Suicide, Death, ReligionLeave a Comment

As assisted suicide deaths rise yet again in Oregon and Switzerland and they prepare to discuss legalizing the practice in Massachusetts, over at Catholic Lane this morning, I revisited and revised a previous post from here:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. (1 Peter 2:21)

There are many, many lessons to be learned in the example Christ left for us in his suffering. One of those, I believe, is a lesson in how to die and the great reward that comes from patient endurance. This is a particularly important point to ponder as physician assisted suicide of the terminally ill and disabled is becomes increasingly more commonly accepted — and practiced — in our country and throughout the world. Believe it or not, I’ve even been asked by some faithful Catholics why it is so wrong for someone who is in extreme pain and “going to die, anyway” to want to hasten death.

The short answer, of course, is because we are not God. We did not bring ourselves into the world and we do not have authority to take ourselves out. What’s more, even God, who could surely spare himself the pain, submitted himself to the most brutal, agonizing death He was sentenced to.

crucifix2.jpgBruised, bloody and beaten, naked and humiliated, abandoned by his friends and loyal followers, Christ’s Passion was the greatest physical and emotional pain ever suffered. It was a great spiritual pain as well since Christ, having literally taken the full weight of human sin upon Himself, felt the bitter agony of feeling completely separated from God. And yet despite this most extreme pain, he endured. Never once did he beg for assistance to be “put out of His misery.” Rather, He repeatedly put His life in the hands of Almighty God, trusting in His Will and knowing that only He has the authority to take life away.

In his book, As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus refers to death as the “final letting go of everything, body and spirit.” This is Christ in the Garden: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). And on the Cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

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