Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24

Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be -f or this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

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2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

You always have the most of everything - of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection - so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feat and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to maker her better and save her life.” Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she had spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. “If I can touch even his clothes,” she had told herself, “I shall be well again.” And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. “My daughter,” he said, “your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.”

While he was still peaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, “Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?” But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, “Do not be afraid; only have faith.” And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.” But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to talk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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Have you caught Superman Returns yet? Neither have I. But if you’re anything close to a Superman fan, you know that he’s been portrayed as some kind of divine saviour by the movie reviews. With his super speed, super hearing, super vision, heat vision, x-ray vision, power of flight, invulnerability, etc, he can pretty much do anything. But even Superman faces his moral dilemmas. For example, if there are two people facing life-or-death situations at two locations very far away from each other, who should he save? How does he make such a choice? Or if saving one person will lead to the death of another person, is he to blame for the death of the second person?

Doctors too face this kind of moral dilemmas on a day-to-day basis. Often, especially in the emergency room, they have to make decisions on whose life to save, if at least one person has to die, like for birth complications, what if administering a treatment to save the life of the mother will result in the death of the child?

Even for us non-medical personnel, we too can be faced with such issues. All of us have loved ones, be it family or friends. At some point in our lives, we might be called to make a decision concerning the fate of one of these loved ones. For example, my grandfather passed away three years ago. My family members were required to make certain decisions, such as whether or not to resuscitate him should he have a heart attack in his final days. You may have had to make certain decisions like whether or not to use a painkiller that leads to the shortening of a person’s life.

In truth, such moral issues do not bother us. We do not think of such issues, until it happens to us. But think of it this way - it will definitely happen to you one day, so long as there is someone you care about in this world, it will happen one day that you will be called on to make a moral decision that concerns the life of that someone you care about. And take it from me, or from the experiences of those who have made such decisions, at the point of time that you are called on to make such a decision, you will not be in any frame of mind to weigh moral issues, unless you have thought of them in the past.

One important guideline that I’ve learnt to follow is that: it is not ethically wrong to care for a person’s welfare, even if the method used has the side effect of causing that person to die. The important thing is the intention of the action. For example, if I use a painkiller to ease a person’s pain, but in so doing, I know that he will die faster, it is alright. But if I use the painkiller to make him die faster while easing his pain, it is not alright.

As I said earlier, when you are put into such a situation, you will rarely be in the right frame of mind to make such an important decision. That is why in such an important issue as life, the Church helps its people by laying down certain ethical guidelines for its people to follow. If you are faced with such an issue, it is important that you seek the advice of a moral theologian who can tell you whether or not something is right or wrong.

However, such ethical guidelines are not restricted to the life-and-death issues that face us and our loved ones. It also shapes our attitudes towards other issues that threaten the society at large. Issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, contraceptives, euthanasia, and even homosexuality and sexual promiscuity, are all issues that threaten the life of our society.

It is not enough to know that these are wrong. As Christians with the gift of intelligent thought and rationality, it is also our responsibility to know the reasons that they are wrong, and that involves thinking, asking, and searching. Without a strong belief and understanding of those reasons, we are going to falter when we are faced with those moral dilemmas in our lives which are bound to happen, sooner or later.

We pray for all doctors, nurses, lawyers, priests, politicians, the sick and their family members facing ethical dilemmas, and indeed all Christians facing ethical dilemmas, that they may pray for the Spirit of Life to fill them with wisdom as they make their decisions guiding by the God of Life. We also pray for all Christians that they may spend time and effort to fill themselves with the knowledge they need to make ethically sound choices in their own lives, and the lives of those who are important to them.

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