"If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to Jesus, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
The VA, like many Americans, has been distressed by the suicides of Veterans. It is said that more Vietnam Veterans have died of suicide than died in the war. As a chaplain I should notify the suicide prevention committee if any patient or family member mentions suicide. We are urged to ask troubled persons, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?"
But amid all that alarm there is no discussion of why suicide is wrong. Apparently many people suppose it is; and yet it has become socially acceptable. No church that I know of will hesitate to bury the suicide. There are no scornful remarks made in the news media about their foolish decision and unnecessary death. Suicide is regarded as something that happens to people, like falling in love. It's nobody's fault, but it should not happen.
There are at least seven stories of suicide in the Bible. Oddly, none are condemned outright. The Christian abhorrence for self-slaughter developed somewhat later than the Bible, especially with the teaching of Saint Augustine. He invoked the pagan philosophers who regarded the suicide of a slave as stealing another's property. If the Christian is a servant of the Lord, as we often insist, then we are stewards of the Lord's property and cannot destroy it.
That may not be very helpful to the Veteran who has never known, or has abandoned faith in, the Lord. I am challenged by that reality as I visit the patients in the VA. If you don't know that you belong to the Lord, that he has bought you with the price of his blood, and that he loves and cherishes you as his own, you may not find a reason to live.
Our reason to live begins with faith, and our faith begins with our Baptized, Eucharisted and Confirmed bond to Jesus. The Savior resolutely traveled to Jerusalem; the Gospels insist that he knew it was a one-way trip. He predicted his own passion and death well before he arrived there; and he rebuked Peter when the disciple quailed in horror at the prediction.
But Jesus did not take his own life; he gave it. There is all the difference in the world. Time again we hear in the Scriptures of Jesus' intense love for his Father. "The Father and I are one!" he says; just as a husband and wife are one and you cannot know either one unless you know both. They belong to each other; the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. Children also belong to their parents and their parents, to their children.
The suicide thinks he belongs only to himself. He feels and believes he has been abandoned by his Maker, if he ever had one. There is no lonelier feeling on earth, and none more inaccurate. The suicide doesn't know himself or his own worth; thinking only of himself he thinks trash.
The VA, the nation and the Church struggle to reclaim living, healing, vibrant relationships with their own children. We have incarcerated too many; we have sent too many into unnecessary wars to support industries deeply invested in warfare; we have wasted too many lives with alcohol, drugs and abortion; we have disrespected the beauty and wholeness of too many persons of color. Suicide is the inevitable fruit of this culture of death. We should not blame the victims, but neither should we support this godless way of life.
We must ask the Lord to send us that Spirit that willingly, eagerly gives his life and our lives for the salvation of the world.