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Monday, December 22, 2014

EUTHANASIA: Rejecting the Comfort of Christ

by Lawrence Fox 

Thirty-year-old Brittany Maynard seemingly chose to end her life on Nov. 1, 2014, although she said truthfully just days before, “It doesn’t seem like the right time now.” 

The Comfort of Christ
Given months to live with terminal brain cancer, the young woman moved to Oregan so she could take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide law.

Even though many pro-life people, who were dying naturally, tried to share their witness with Brittany, what she was never offered by her family or friends was the promise of hope. For our society has rejected the comfort Christ offered in his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Catholic Church reflecting upon the life of Christ recognized that with Baptism the whole person (body and soul) entered into the life, death and resurrection of Christ (not something symbolically but substantially rooted in a promise). Jesus said to his disciples, “Unless you pick up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Matthew 16:24) That is a promise. 

Soren Kierkegaard (Danish Philosopher 1813-1855) wrote a pamphlet titled: “Sickness unto Death.” It is an excellent read especially given the post-modern rush to re-canonize “suicide” as an expression of pagan virtue. 

Kierkegaard said that for the pagan, suicide represented the mingling of courage with despair as an expression of virtue. What the pagan wanted was courage rooted in the virtue of hope.“Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his second encyclical, “Saved in Hope.”

While the pagan honored suicide as virtue, he yet waited for the Church to preach the virtue of true hope. Hope is a virtue rooted in a promise -- a promise founded upon Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. There is a part of the prayer at the end of the Rosary which goes:
“Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy (able) to receive the promises of Christ.”


“If you obey my commands, then you will be my disciples, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” Jesus promised. (John 8:31, 32) So many of us miss the first part, “If you obey my commands…” We want freedom but we live like slaves. That is because true freedom is the ability to say, “Yes” to God and His commands and “No” to ourselves and our commands.

The City of God is in principle populated by men capable of saying “Yes” to God and to a
loss of self, wrote St. Augustine in his work, “The City of God.” The city of men is in principle populated by men who say “Yes” to self and to a loss of God.

God builds His city by teaching and enabling men to live as God. Man builds his city by teaching and demanding men to live as men. To commit suicide is tragically man living like well, merely a man.

Post-modern man no longer lives the virtue of hope, since he has rejected the commands and promises of Christ. As such, the post-modern man has re-embraced “suicide” in order to act out the pagan mingling of courage and despair. Soren Kierkegaard states that modern man in the mid-1800s was in a much worse condition than that of the pagans prior to their hearing of the Good News. 

The pagans at least were waiting for a message of hope. Post-modern man has rejected the Good News or replaced it with something unnatural. In essence, peoples which were once Christian are now living the negative promise: “Then it (the demon) goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there (in the previously possessed person). And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:45)

The Christian lives God’s Plan for his life, and the virtue of hope shines, according to Kierkegaard. This Danish philopher helped me to better understand the source and power of hope by looking at the opposite condition which he identified as “despair” or “sickness unto death.”

Sometimes apophatic knowledge comes by looking at the negative of that thing. Kierkegaard pointed out that Satan exists in absolute despair. His judgment, intellect, will, actions and all his conversations are rooted in despair. Satan was created with great intelligence, beauty, and glory. He was asked to do something and he refused, “I will not obey!”

There is only one God, but Satan chose the lie and shared it with Adam and Eve: “There is NOT only one God.” They accepted the lie, which resulted in their spiritual deaths and that of their children -- namely us. Who was it that said, “Adam burped and we all starve?” 

While reading Soren’s words, I thought about the words of Jesus to his disciples, “Satan was a liar and murderer from the beginning.” Despair expresses itself by lying and murdering the innocent. Think of all the evil perpetrated with a lie which leads to greater violence and murder.

The pagan deeply longed for hope. Christianity brought this hope to the pagans. Soon the pagans stopped slaughtering their own children, stopped performing human sacrifice, suicide was diminished, and monogamy increased, and for a time neighboring lands developed a code of conduct even for war. Now their rejected evils have come back in spades -- even within the Church.

Something happened in Europe, truth and freedom somehow became separated from obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ.

It began with Luther’s doctrine, Justification by Faith Alone. This doctrine certainly has diminished charity in the Mystical Body of Christ. The evidence of this lack of charity is the perpetual multiplications of schisms and separations within the body of Christ. You shall know the tree by its fruits.

Today, St. Paul’s concern that every effort be made to maintain communion and not grieve the Holy Spirit is meaningless outside the confines of the immediate or particular congregation. This is an expression of nominalism – the denial of universal truth. Paul writes:
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)

Luther taught the opinion of “imputed justice.” A person makes a claim of belief in Christ Jesus and justice is imputed to that person. That person by “faith alone” becomes clothed cosmetically in Jesus’ righteousness while dung and dirty rags remain underneath. Luther’s opinion of imputed justice - properly understood – ends up arguing against Jesus’ total victory over sin and death. 

Imputed justice argues that the power of sin remains intact within the Mystical Body both on earth and in heaven. Underneath, sin clings like dung. That does not sound like heaven. It sounds like something out of the mouth of Mohammed and not the mouth of Jesus. And yet, I have heard Christians explain to me time and time again Luther’s theory of imputed justice using the same example. I explain to them – when I can – “You have not truly thought through that analogy.”

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:1-7)

Through the grace of faith in baptism, the initiate become members of Jesus' mystical body, a new creation in Him. Jesus’ suffering and death was death to man's sin.  Participating in the sufferings of Christ brings about a death to sin, a purging and death to self. "But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) 

Jesus offered to the Father that which man could not give on his own: “perfect love and thanksgiving.” Because of Adam’s sin, man ought to provide recompense but cannot. God is able to provide satisfaction, but justice demands that humanity provide satisfaction. A conundrum exists. 

God became man so that in the human flesh satisfaction for sin could be made. Jesus was like us in all things but sin. Therefore he could freely offer to the Father that which was not required of himself; a free complete giving of Himself at the hands of humanity. The Father received such recompence gladly, and in response gave to the Son all authority in heaven and on earth.

Pope Benedict offering Christ and all the faithful
back to the Father
The ultimate expression of hope is Jesus with all authority offering us back to the Father -- not as dung cosmetically prettied up as Luther taught -- but as people who through suffering have learned to no longer live for ourselves but for God through the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The 4th Eucharistic Canon of the Roman Catholic Mass says these words:
“And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as his first gift to those who believe, to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.”


For those attracted to the healing ministry, please be of sound mind for St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians is very insightful in this manner: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 3:7)


Years ago, I understood why Jesus left the Holy Eucharist with His Church: the Eucharist enables the Christian to share in His comfort
The Comfort of Christ 
which flows forth from His suffering. I later heard this confirmed in a film about Medieval Franciscan philosopher John Duns Scotus. In the film, Scotus states: “Jesus left us the Eucharist so that He could comfort us.”

An excerpt from the 4th Eucharistic Canon of the Mass reads as follows: “We now celebrate this memorial of our redemption. We recall Christ's death, his descent among the dead, his resurrection, and his ascension to your right hand; and, looking forward to his coming in glory, we offer you his body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your Church; and by your Holy Spirit, gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.”

In other words by participating in the Holy Eucharist, the recipient shares in Christ’s suffering and comfort. Both flow from the Sacrament of the Altar into the faithful recipient’s heart, mind, and body. In this way, the Christian is clothed with Jesus’ righteousness both inside and out.

Sadly, no one informed Brittany Maynard of the comfort Christ offers before she got involved with the advocacy group, the so-called “Compassion” & Choices. 

In a video released just before her death, she said, ““I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now (to end her life).” 

But the next day, she was dead.

“Human life is a journey,” Pope Benedict
Mary, Star of the Sea,
Guide us on life's journey
concluded his encyclical on hope.
“Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.”

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