A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Murder and suicide

In the past week there have been two cases in different parts of the United States where a man has walked into a school, killed schoolgirls at random, and then killed himself.

May God have mercy on them all.

To many believers, it is unimaginable that anyone should want to commit suicide with such horrific evil fresh on their soul, leaping into what seems almost certain damnation.

And yet there seem to be many who deliberately choose to end their lives in monumental evil: with the crash of a plane, the blast of a suicide bomb, or the barrel of a gun - opening themselves to an eternity "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:48)

Of course, only God sees perfectly into a man's soul and only God can judge. We can only judge the actions themselves as evil (and evil they certainly are), but we cannot look fully into a man's soul.

We cannot even judge ourselves fully, for the human heart can and does fool itself: sometimes to dangerous despair, sometimes to dangerous rationalization.


Years ago, those who committed suicide were denied church funerals, based on the understandable presumption that they had died guilty and unrepentant of a most grievous sin - that they had irrevocably turned their back on the mercy of God.

Nowadays, many churches provide full funeral rites for those who commit suicide, based on the understandable presumption that their culpability was impaired by an overwhelming mental or emotional infirmity - that they were still open to the mercy of God.

But again, we cannot judge their souls: we cannot even judge ourselves.

The objective evil of suicide is quite clear. Also clear is the collateral damage of suicide: the lifelong damage to loved ones, the obliteration of good things done in life, and the extra spin on a spiral that threatens to take the whole world down into darkness.

It is foolishness to imagine such an act simply as a release, an escape, a vindication, or anything else good. It is a compounding of evil upon evil and insofar as a person intends suicide that person intends evil.

From the outside, we can and should hope for God's mercy upon a tormented soul who committed such evil.

From the inside, we must not fool ourselves into rationalizing such evil or presuming unrepentantly and disrespectfully upon the mercy of God.

No matter what pain or injustice we may suffer, it cannot be cured by the evil of suicide: indeed, we risk a far greater pain of unimaginable duration.

The pain and the injustice we suffer may be great - it may seem unending and unendurable - but the love and the healing power of Christ is infinitely greater and truly eternal, if only we remain open to his grace, faithful to his truth, and humble with the cross we share with him.


As we consider these murderous suicides - and many others throughout the world - we must pray for the murdered victims as well as for their families, friends, and neighbors.

We must also pray for the families, friends, and neighbors of the suicidal murderers.

But we must also pray for those who have committed suicide: not minimizing in our prayers the evil that was done, but placing the souls of the suicides into the hands of God, whose justice cannot be fooled and whose mercy cannot be repelled.

Our responsibility and action as Christians, however, must not be simply after the fact.

While remaining prudently protective - especially in protecting the young and defenseless - we must also open our eyes and our hearts to those around us whose anger or pain might lead them to commit murder, suicide, or both.


In today's first reading (from Job 3), we hear the words of a devout and righteous man overcome with depression and thoughts of death: a man who wishes he had never been born.

For many of us, our natural reaction is to put distance between ourselves and the one who is suffering such thoughts. We may be afraid of being on the edge ourselves (but if that is so, then we need to get help ourselves rather than to ignore such feelings altogether).

The more Christ-like reaction is to reach out to the one who is suffering with the love, truth, and healing power of God.

In some ways, we need to be like Job's friends, who were not afraid to sit with Job in his pain (Job 2:12-13).

They lifted up their voice, and wept;
and they rent every one his mantle,
and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
So they sat down with him upon the ground
seven days and seven nights,
and none spake a word unto him:
for they saw that his grief was very great.

Unfortunately, for themselves and for Job, they did not reach out with the love, truth, and healing power of God, but rather with reproaches and platitudes.

We must follow the example of Christ, who embraces us and our suffering and leads us into the light by the way of truth and love.

As Christ has done for us, so we must do for one another, especially for those who suffer from anger and despair.

We need to do what we can, with the grace of God, so that none of us may slip forever into darkness but rather that all of us may enjoy the unconquerable light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.