On Living & Dying

Prayer
“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself…
whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

At my last assignment, the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, I met a couple who shared the story about their son Thomas. Thomas was a bright guy, liked to work on cars, and liked to tell funny jokes to his friends. He was very attentive to people, especially those who others easily forget. He would give his last dollar bills to a homeless man because he thought that that little money might change that man’s life. He would sit at lunch with a special education student in his school and they would draw pictures together.

However, Thomas was also struggling with heavy depression. On top of that, he was gay. He grew up in the Catholic church, and he felt rejected by the church because of who he was. He thought there was no place for him in the church, that he didn’t belong there. He thought he was “unsavable”. Five years ago, Thomas took his own life. He was only 20 years old.

When his mother went to a Catholic priest to find some consolation, he told her that he thought “the devil was whispering in Thomas’s ears,” which then caused him to commit suicide. Saying something like that to a mother who just lost her son is cruel, inexcusable, and in itself, evil. Sadly, this is not unique in our church. I still hear stories how some churches would refuse funeral mass for people who committed suicide.

There are many stories like Thomas’s out there. Some of you yourselves, or somebody you know, might have felt rejected by the church, by their family, by their friends and loved ones. There are many causes: depression, mental illness, being gay, having an abortion, infidelity, addiction. It makes them think they are “unsavable”, unforgivable. The readings this Sunday reminds us of the immensity of God’s mercy. We must not try to put a limit to that mercy and impose it on others. Instead, Jesus commands us to be willing to forgive others, just like God is always ready to forgive us.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. For those who have lost a loved one to suicide, Survivors of Suicide Loss (https://www.soslsd.org) can provide some support. Most importantly, we can be an extension of God’s mercy and provide a safe, non-judgmental space for those who are struggling with guilt or shame. Continuing the theme of the Season of Creation, we are mindful of the “suicide” that we also inflict on ourselves, our future generations, and our (as St. Francis of Assisi calls it) Sister Mother Earth. For all our failings, sins, and abuse of creation, we ask God for forgiveness. God is now calling us to confront, heal, and transform our ways that have been destructive to the environment. This is what Pope Francis calls in Laudato Si’ “ecological conversion,” a term first coined by Pope St. John Paul II. In his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, the late Pope wrote that authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.” Pope Francis reinforces this by stating: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” (Laudato Si’: 217) As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today: “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself… whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We, humanity, and all other creation are all connected through Christ because we were all created by God through Christ. We should therefore do our best to care for one another.

Continuing the theme of the Season of Creation, we are mindful of the “suicide” that we also inflict on ourselves, our future generations, and our (as St. Francis of Assisi calls it) Sister Mother Earth. For all our failings, sins, and abuse of creation, we ask God for forgiveness. God is now calling us to confront, heal and transform our ways that have been destructive to the environment. This is what Pope Francis calls in Laudato Si’ “ecological conversion,” a term first coined by Pope St. John Paul II.

In his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, the late Pope wrote that authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.” Pope Francis reinforces this by stating: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” (Laudato Si’: 217)

As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today: “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself… whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We, humanity, and all other creation are all connected through Christ because we were all created by God through Christ. We should therefore do our best to care for one another.

Peace, Fr. Sam