Monday, March 21, 2005

Death... the wages of sin

I have been too enraged about the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case to even speak about it to any great extent, but I've decided to air out my mind a little bit. To begin with, I think it appropriate to quote at length from the Pope's letter on life-issues.
Today, as a result of advances in medicine and in a cultural context frequently closed to the transcendent, the experience of dying is marked by new features. When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well-being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs. Death is considered "senseless" if it suddenly interrupts a life still open to a future of new and interesting experiences. But it becomes a "rightful liberation" once life is held to be no longer meaningful because it is filled with pain and inexorably doomed to even greater suffering...

In this context the temptation grows to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, "gently" ending one's own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the "culture of death", which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value.

- Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Evangelium Vitae, 64
Our culture is truly one of death. Vatican II talked about how the end of life brings man's awareness of his condition of original sin to the foreground; but now it seems to bring equally to mind the condition of actual sin and evil in the world. We see it on CNN everyday; the obituaries are the least tragic parts of our newspapers; our movies throw gratuitous violence on the screen without rhyme or reason but a beautiful and devout passion film (the only justified example) is the only one about which anyone seems to get enraged; we watch gleefully the antics of "desperate housewives" when all over the world housewives fight truly desperate battles to feed and clothe their children. And as politicians debate, judges play God, a husband sets up book deals and TV spots, and millions of Americans go about their day consuming their dollar-menu death an ounce at a time, a woman agonizingly starves in a hospice in Florida, unable to give voice to her pain. That responsibility falls to us...

We've just entered the holiest week of the year, the representative time in which we give special attention to the eternal event of our salvation in which Christ paid the "wages of sin," death, a final and sufficient ransom. The Cross gives us hope, and death has lost its sting. We have a right to die: to sin and the world, in order to live in, with, and for Christ. We have a right to sanctify our daily lives and carry them out in such a way so that they may continue past the grave. We do not have a right to deal out death in judgement, to put stipulations on gifts and responsibilities that come from the hand of God. We do not have a right to fear or to cower before the suffering in this life, by which God allows us to encounter his saving presence.

Let's stand up and testify to these rights - the rights of Terri Schiavo - the rights of us all. Innocent Life seeks an abettor to plead its cause. Let us pray, fast, and give alms... at least for the next few days if we've done nothing yet this Lent. Let us be the instruments with which the Author of Life puts His signature on our world; and may that signature be a condemnation of the unjust, and a reprieve for Terri Schiavo.

Click here to help out.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.
Because by Thy holy cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.


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