Thursday, March 31, 2005

MH - Rest in Peace

Terri Schiavo has died, and the peace which eluded her in life as finally come to her. In the midst of this heartbreak, I can't think of anything better than to recall the words of St. Augustine: "For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." We must fall back on the words of the good Saint, because otherwise what has happened seems to have no meaning at all.

Why did this happen, and what does this mean for the unborn, the disabled, the sick, the elderly? We scramble for meaning, and we wonder what the future holds for ourselves and our loved ones. We wonder why God allowed this to happen, why He didn't change the minds of the judges who heard the case, why He didn't strike Michael Schiavo or his attorney dead. These are gut feelings, visceral desires, bitter herbs. They're understandable, and God will forgive us for having them, but still we must put our trust in the words, inspired by God, which Augustine spoke. (See more here for St. Augustine on faith, hope and love.)

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil . . ." Will we ever know what that good is? Perhaps, perhaps not. Not in our lifetime, that is, although I'm confident we will find out should we reach Heaven. On the other hand, there's no question that many people, including many of us bloggers, have been brought together in a way we wouldn't have if not for Terri. The entire issue of medical treatment for the disabled and ill has been brought to a very high profile, and I don't think it will be possible to put that horse back in the barn. I've long thought that people were energized in an unprecedented way from The Passion of the Christ, and I think we see that energy being displayed here, in the efforts which total strangers undertook on behalf of Terri and her family.

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." To deny this is to deny the power of God, power that has no limits. We've been guilty so often in the past of putting limits on God, of seeing situations as "too big" for Him to handle. Whether talking about selling a house or finding a job or forgiveness of sins, we think it's too much for God. Now really - for One who created the heavens and the earth, do you really think you can put limits on Him?

Therefore, don't put limits on God - put your trust in Him instead. Trust His saints, who assure us that there is a reason to this apparent madness. Trust in Him, and cooperate with Him. Cooperate by prayer, by looking at the ways in which we live our lives, by continuing to preach and teach and be a witness to our faith. Cooperate by offering our sufferings to Him, by joining Him on the Cross, by joining in His redemptive work.

One last thought. There may be a danger in sanctifying Terri Schiavo in the days to come, and we don't want to be guilty of presumption. I don't know much about Terri's life, whether she was a good person or not. I'm assuming, from what I've read and heard, that she was; but ultimately it doesn't really matter. I'm not trying to be cold by saying that, but the fact is that we're talking about the dignity of the human, and whether we're talking about good or bad, Catholic or Protestant or stone-cold disbeliever - that dignity exists. It's a real thing, a thing that knows no bounds. Terri Schiavo was denied that dignity. We've heard people talk about "dying with dignity," but that's not what happened here.

As I write this post, I'm listening to the news bulletins on the Holy Father's health. He's running a high fever, his blood pressure has dropped. Some sources say he's been given the Last Rites. The media death watch, crass as it sounds, has started. The Pope's long Way of the Cross seems to be nearing an end.

Here is a man who with his life provides us the definition of the phrase "dignity of life." In his words, in his actions, and ultimately in his life - and his inevitable death. He has been and continues to provide us with his living example of how to live and how to die. Remember how just after the O.J. verdict, when the country was on the verge of being torn in two over racial issues, the Holy Father made a trip to America? One of the most vivid recollections I have of that trip was an editorial cartoon that showed the country as a mass of hate and divisiveness, and the Pope moving through the country leaving a path of whiteness in his wake. In the same way that our stained garments are washed clean in the Blood of Christ, the Pope was bringing a sense of God's dignity to a country in dire need of it, and we were made better for it. So is it a coincidence that both of these stories, Terri Schiavo and the Pope's, are coming to a head at the same time? I think not.

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." Don't try to understand it, just go with the flow. God's flow is a good one indeed.

Requiescat in pace, Terri.

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