Spirituality for Today – November 2013 – Volume 18, Issue 4

An End Too Soon

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a person walking alone on a path

In the United States one of our military veterans commits suicide every sixty-five minutes. The global suicide rate has had a sixty percent increase over the last five decades. Dr. Niel Burton in an article for Psychology Today reveals that nearly thirty thousand people commit suicide annually – more deaths than in accidents, homicide, and war. What has gone wrong in the human experience that had caused such desperate actions? We have had greater wars, worse economic times, and the panoply of stresses in life more prevalent than today. Why should so many people end their lives by their own hand currently than in the past?

One must wonder what has been lost in an individual's understanding of who they are and why they are and what is their destiny. Despair and bewilderment can touch all lives, but not being able to rescue themselves from these states sets the stage for the tragedy of suicide. The intense and catastrophic events within a war zone easily can place one's mind and emotions in a place that needs resolution and healing. For average persons who have felt victimized by injustices, misfortunes, overwhelming stresses, and lost opportunities, life can appear to be a cruel and meaningless joke. Death may be seen as the only source of relief.

There is an anonymous saying "People do not die from suicide, they die from sadness." This "sadness" might be the result of deep depression or other mental disorder. Psychiatrists are of the opinion that over ninety percent of suicides are occasioned by mental illness. The Church may understand the presence or absence of sin according to the presence or absence of free will in committing such an act. Perhaps, all of us have had times in our lives when we were gripped by great sadness. Feelings of despair or hopelessness are not to be taken lightly or dismissed as a passing mood. These feelings could be brought on by the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, separation or divorce, grave illness, the disillusion of a friendship, futility over "the way things are," and many other sources. Retreating into one's self alienates the helpful contribution of others and, especially, the love of others. Many instances of the coming of overwhelming darkness result from the realization of the "clay feet" of one's heroes or the pathetically depraved moral attitudes of society. Too many are the causes of the bitter fruit of sadness.

The compassion and the assurance that comes from Faith is the answer to the hellish despair that can make one entertain thoughts of suicide. There is no one in all human history that had more reason to despair and give up than Jesus of Nazareth. God became man and brought the news of salvation to the world only to be met with derision, hatred, and death. And even though he could gather not even twelve faithful and believing followers to be his apostles, he knew that victory and only victory must be his. He taught the Way, the Truth, and the Life to all who would listen. Nothing that humankind would do to him could change the reality of these doctrines. From the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, Jesus would allow mankind to do its worst to him and he would respond by doing his best for them. Showing humanity the reality of life, death, and resurrection opens the path to victory and eternal life for those who have the faith, hope, and love to follow it. The important recognition for each person is to identify Jesus' suffering and Jesus' victory over sin and death as conjoined with their own experience.

There is no evil to be faced that Christ did not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and that does not now bear with us.

Blessed John Paul II

The healing of suicidal thoughts and of all despair is to ingest the medicine of faith in Christ. The pain is ameliorated by that faith because it uncovers the passing quality of that pain and turns the sufferer from gazing backward to looking forward. One ceases digging their grave and focuses on taking the right steps, with Christ's help, toward living. Sometimes one glowing ember can ignite a growing flame giving peace, and hope, and life.