JUNE 14, 2010, MONDAY OF 11TH WEEK: 1 K: 21:1-16; MATTHEW 5: 38-42

 

Yesterday, as I glanced at the newspaper in the library annex, my curiosity was piqued by the headline that announces concern over a major social issue in the Rochester area: teenage suicide. The extensive article on the front page is accompanied by a prominent picture of a local 17 year old high school senior who recently came home, giving his mother whom he greeted warmly, then in his room hanged himself. He was the first of three suicides in the same senior class at a Webster high school. He is one of 63 persons between the ages of 15-24 in Monroe County who ended their lives by suicide in the ten years between 1998 and 2008. Suicide is the third most frequent cause of death in this age group today; in the USA of those between 15 and 24 12 % die from suicide. This does not include failed suicide attempts. The paper published three extensive articles on this topic, quotes, in addition to the parents and brother of one 17 year old suicide, various other persons interviewed including the chairman of the Psychiatry Department at U of Rochester Medical Center. In my own opinion, the fact that the chief question in regard to the issue of suicide is not so much as mentioned points to a major reason why such a plague has appeared in our modern society. No one, including the family interviewed and the reporters who wrote these three extensive articles, so much as mentions God, religion, morals, or the purpose of life and of education. No religious authority is interviewed, no family member or friend has anything to say about any of these very fundamental areas that bear directly upon the subject. The moral and religious darkness is completely and totally ignored in our current secular society.  It is not surprising that all these articles manage to do is draw attention to the problem, and give the vaguest of suggestions on what to do about it. The schools should be less demanding on the students, though it is far from evident that American students are studying too much. The most the psychiatrist has to offer is “be forthright” in facing the matter, whatever that means. Not a single word that would help deal with the deeper roots of the problem; indeed, no indication that anyone so much as suspects there is need for a more wholesome approach to human formation and relations.

 

Why mention this matter in the liturgical homily? It seems to me to have a lot to do with the first reading today. Suicide is the final act of self-destruction. It is the last in a series of self-defeating behaviors that are all too frequent in our lives. King Ahab of Samaria and his wife Jezebel provide a classic example of such self- defeating behavior that begins with a relatively small matter that of fixing desire on what belongs to another. Ahab gets sick over a desirable piece of land. This greed leads to injustice and goes on to murder. It results in the ignoble ruin of his descendents and the violent death of his wife. The story is a vivid depiction of how sin is destructive even in this life. Leaving God and his law out of calculation is already to take a path that is self-defeating. Taking the easy way to attain selfish satisfaction is the first step in a way that terminates in death.

 

In the Gospel today our Lord shows the opposite path. By choosing to be patient, to deny selfish interests, even to submit to insult and injury rather than seek vengeance or remain resentful, we can become truly meek of heart. It was just such meek endurance of bad treatment, such self-denial that Jesus not only taught with words but put into practice. His behavior did indeed pass through death, but a death that was but a passage to eternal glory in the light of the Father’s love. It is just such a death that we celebrate here today at this altar. May we receive the grace in this communion to follow the way of faith and meekness that ends in the fullness of life in the Kingdom of the Father. & 


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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