Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles voiced concern this week over the physician assisted suicide case of 29-year old Brittany Maynard, saying her story fills him with sadness. “We know that God has a plan of love for every life. But we also know that within his plan, people can find sickness and suffering that seems to have no reason, no justification,” Archbishop Gomez stated in an October 14 column, featured on The Tidings and at CNA. Although from California, Brittany and her husband moved to Oregon after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer; Oregon is one of five states that has legalized physician assisted suicide. Doctors predict that Brittany has a few months left to live, but she plans to kill herself with an overdose of pain medication before the cancer becomes too advanced. “Her story makes my heart heavy with sadness. And her public confession had led to an outpouring of prayers, commentary, and debate,” the Los Angeles archbishop reflected. Archbishop Gomez pointed to the powerful testimony from Maggie Karner, who also has aggressive brain cancer, but says, “there’s no way I’ll kill myself.” He also referred to an appeal from Kara Tippetts, who is suffering from breast cancer, urging Brittany that there is beauty and meaning in suffering. “All of this reminds us — that we are born toward death. Our life is a journey that will come to an end some day,” Archbishop Gomez stated. As Christians, he said that we know that “God is a God of the living and he has shared in our sufferings. He has gone before us, entering into our pain and suffering, so that he can lead us through the valley of death into the land of the living.” Noting that death is real, and yet, not the end, the archbishop said that to our secular society, death is the one horizon we can never see beyond. “Our science can discover the inner workings of the tiniest cells in our bodies and probe the depths of outer space. But what lies beyond this life — we will never find out for sure until it happens.” Archbishop Gomez pointed to the book-made-movie “Heaven is for Real” as a way to approach eternal life. “Heaven is for Real” tells the true story about a young boy who experiences a glimpse of Heaven during a near-death experience. “We don’t really know what to make of all these kinds of stories,” he stated, “but as Christians, we know that Heaven is for real and forever. And the hope for Heaven gives a new horizon to all our tomorrows here on earth.” Taking Brittany Maynard’s case as the ultimate example, Archbishop Gomez believes that her suffering, and the sufferings of others, is a summons to love and compassion, to let others know that God is near during times of suffering. “Through our kindness and care, we can help those who suffer believe in Heaven. We can show them that when they breathe their last breath, God will be there, too. To take their hand tenderly and lead them along the last steps of their journey. Through the door, to the love that never ends.” Urging the faithful to unite in prayer for Brittany, and others in similar situations, Archbishop Gomez prayed that in light of suffering, everyone would live with a new confidence, “that in the hour of death, all sorrow will be turned to joy.” “In their time of trial and suffering, may they find tenderness and beauty in the care of their loved ones. May they know that to God, their lives are precious and worth living, even in their weaknesses and vulnerability.”
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