I hate pain and suffering. A few years ago, I had an intestinal problem that never seemed to get better. I complained and I ranted and I almost cursed the day I was born. Eventually, however, I did get better.
Now, I’m watching my parents grow increasingly old and frail. My mom, bless her, can hardly walk and my dad is bent over with age. I’ve also witnessed several acquaintances slowly die of cancer. One of my friends is now battling cancer, and I don’t think he’s going to make it. As I get older, I seem to be seeing much more pain and suffering among those I know and love. Medical science has given us much longer average life spans, but often at the cost of prolonged pain and suffering.
Largely because of this, there is a determined effort to legalize "mercy killing." Not so long ago, the vast majority of people saw euthanasia as evil. However, as society has become increasingly secularized, support for legalized euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide has continued to grow.
The Catholic Church continues to adamantly oppose direct "mercy killing" (killing the sick, the handicapped or the dying with or without their consent or helping such people kill themselves) regardless of the circumstances. It does, however, teach that passive euthanasia (the cessation of "over zealous" medical treatment in "hopeless" situations) can be acceptable. The Church’s reason is simple: God is the author of life and only He should decide when a person should die. People should not have the power to "play God" in these matters.
Suffering does have a potentially good purpose. The mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reveals this truth. Indeed, suffering is at the heart of the "mystery of faith." This doesn’t mean that we should like suffering or that we shouldn’t use every moral means to avoid or alleviate unnecessary suffering. It does mean that we should courageously accept suffering when there are no moral avenues for escaping it or when we are convinced that by embracing suffering we are more completely serving God.
To live is to suffer. Sometimes our suffering is mild; sometimes it is intense. When we look back at nearly every period of our lives, we can recall both pleasure and pain. If we had it our way, we would choose a life of pleasure and no pain. However, suffering, when born patiently and well, produces character and can lead to holiness. Often, it seems that the more we follow God the more suffering we have to endure. "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life (Mt. 7:14)…" and "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross (Mk. 8:34)…"