What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia (from Greek: ευθανασία -ευ, eu, "good," θάνατος, thanatos, "death") is the practice of terminating the life of a human being or animal with an incurable disease, "intolerable" suffering, or a possibly undignified death in a painless or minimally painful way, for the purpose of limiting suffering. It is a form of homicide or self-suicide, which is what it is—self-murder.
Euthanasia refers both to the situation when a substance is administered to a person with intent to kill that person or, with basically the same intent, when removing someone from life support.
What is Mercy Killing?
"Mercy killing" is simply another word for "euthanasia" in most English-language dictionaries. Euthanasia and, therefore, mercy killing is "the act of putting a person or animal to death painlessly or allowing them to die by withholding medical services, usually because of a painful and incurable disease."
The Greek word euthanasia translates to "good death," making it and mercy killing terms that can be comforting in the face of difficult medical situations. When any person, especially a family member or close friend, is experiencing pain, mental degeneration, or other adverse condition, our instinct is to relieve the person in any way possible. Sometimes, this desire to alleviate pain can become so strong in the caregiver or patient that it overrides our deeper natural impulse to preserve life and survive.
Not By Emotion, But By God's Will
However reasonable or logical mercy killing may seem to us, we do not live by emotion or by our own logic (Jeremiah 17:9) but by natural law and faith (Romans 1:17) and obedience to God and His Church (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 18:17). God has plans and an understanding we can never grasp. He is the Giver and Sustainer of life (Nehemiah 9:6), and we do not have the right to usurp His authority by ending our own life either by suicide or euthanasia. Near the end of Job's story in the Bible, his friend Elihu warns him, "Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction" (Job 36:21). It is not our place to decide the time or manner of our own death. Mercy killing and euthanasia is a sin against God's plan and power. However, this does not mean that it is a sin to ask God for an early death if we desire to be united with Him in heaven—provided this be asked for in good faith and with pure motives and with an intention that God's will be done and not ours.
We all know that from nature God is the One who opens the womb, the One who killeth and maketh alive. Thus, the right to the end of life is reserved only for God, because only God knows the goal toward which a life is being directed. God alone wishes to be the one who justifies or rejects a life.
1 Kings 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to hell, and bringeth back again."
What Does The Bible Say About Euthanasia And Suffering?
Euthanasia and suffering can be a very difficult issue for some. However, the overriding truth that drives the conclusion that God is opposed to euthanasia and for suffering is His sovereignty and infinite knowledge of what is best for us. We know that physical death and suffering is inevitable (Psalm 89:48; Hebrews 9:27) and even necessary (John 12:24; Luke 14:27). However, God alone is sovereign over when and how a person's suffering or death occurs. Job testifies in Job 30:23, "I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living." Ecclesiastes 8:8 declares, "No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death." God has the final say over death (see also 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-56; Hebrews 2:9, 14-15; Revelation 21:4). Euthanasia is man's way of trying to usurp that authority from God.
This struggle of death and suffering is not new to humanity. In fact, one of the oldest stories in the Bible tells of Job's desire for death in the midst of his suffering. Job laments his life, even requesting God to kill him rather than allow his pain – emotional, physical and spiritual – to continue (Job 6:8-11). Most pertinently, Job declares, "I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I shall now live no longer. Let me alone; my days have no meaning" (Job 7:15-16).
Does the Bible endorse Job's feelings? It certainly recognizes that such feelings exist. Other characters in Scripture have, in desperation, asked for an early end to their lives, including Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and Saul (1 Chronicles 10:4). However, the evil king Saul did not ask God to end his life, as did the holy prophet Elijah.
Death is a natural occurrence. Sometimes God allows a person to suffer for a long time before death occurs; other times, the person's suffering is cut short. No one but the greatest of saints enjoys suffering, but that does not make it right to determine that a person is ready to die. Often God's purposes are made known through a person's suffering. "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other…" (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Romans 5:3 teaches that tribulations bring about perseverance. God cares about those who are crying out for death to end their suffering. God gives purpose to life even to the end. Only God knows what is best, and His timing, even in the matter of one's death, is perfect.
Consider this: If Christ was the "man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53) by whose blood we have been washed and regenerated, what does this imply? How will he make us participants of the fruit of his blood, except by his sorrows? Did He not Himself declare: "And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). What will be the reason of our similarity with Him, if not the stigmas and wounds of His passion, marked upon ourselves? For there are no more secure and authentic signs of our predestination than this—patience in suffering. The apostle tells us, that by many tribulations we should enter the kingdom. And it was announced that Christ would not take any other path: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26).
--- "Therefore suffer manfully until death, and this will be for me a proof that you love me, and you should not turn back for any creature whatsoever, nor for any tribulation that you suffer; rather you should rejoice in them." --- Jesus speaking to St. Catherine of Siena
What Does The Bible Say About Suicide?
The Bible mentions seven specific people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul's armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4-6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), Razias (2 Maccabees 14:37-46), and Judas (Matthew 27:5). Five of them were wicked, sinful men (although not enough is said regarding Saul's armor-bearer to make a judgment as to his character). Haydock Bible commentary however relates "that to avoid a little shame and temporal punishment, they [both] rushed into those [punishments] which are inconceivably great and eternal [i.e., hell]"). Concerning Razias (2 Maccabees 14:37-46), Challoner Bible commentary relates, "St. Augustine (Epist. lxi. ad Dulcitium et lib. 2. cap. 23. ad Epist. 2. Gaud.) discussing this fact of Razias, says that the holy Scripture relates it, but doth not praise it, as to be admired or imitated, and that it was not well done by him, or at least not proper in this time of grace." And Calmet discussing this fact of Razis, says, "that we do not know whether he was thus inspired [by God] or not." Some consider Samson an instance of suicide (Judges 16:26-31), but Samson's goal was to kill the Philistines, not himself. His "desire of revenge was out of zeal for justice against the enemies of God and his people; and not out of private rancour and malice of heart" (Challoner). "He was judge of his people, and concerned for their wrongs: God, by miracle, testified that he approved of his sentiments" (Calmet). The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is—self-murder. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die.
That suicide is unlawful and a mortal sin is the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Church, which condemns the act as a most atrocious crime and, in hatred of the sin and to arouse the horror of its children, denies the suicide Christian burial—thus affirming his eternal condemnation. Moreover, suicide is directly opposed to the most powerful and invincible tendency of every creature and especially of man, the preservation of life. Finally, for a sane man deliberately to take his own life, he must, as a general rule, first have annihilated in himself all that he possessed of spiritual life, since suicide is in absolute contradiction to everything that the Christian religion teaches us as to the end and object of life and, except in cases of insanity, is usually the natural termination of a life of disorder, weakness, and cowardice.
People will definitely lose their soul by committing suicide. Suicide is the ultimate statement of unbelief. People commit suicide because they don't have faith that God will help them, and we are saved by faith. One must persevere and trust God to the end, not end their lives through suicide.
Patience in Suffering
Sometimes it is difficult to submit to God's will. However, He will give us sufficient grace to do what he requests. "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). He does not want us to be discouraged, even when we have to carry a great cross of suffering. In order to obey and submit to the Father's will, Christ Himself sweat blood by suffering for all of humanity in the garden of Gethsemani. The result of submitting to God's will and suffering with Christ, will be a magnificent triumph, a victory that Our Lady herself promised us at Fatima in 1917.
---- "Pray, pray a great deal, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell, because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them."
--- The Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima: August 19, 1917
---- "Why do you fear to take up the cross, when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies."
--- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Bk. 2, Ch. 12
---- "If you meet Me, you meet the Cross, and when you find the Cross, it is I whom you have found. ..... My Cross is the door of true life, that is why it is illuminated. And the soul that knows how to accept and love it, just as I have chosen it for her, will enter by it into the glory of life eternal.
Do you now understand how precious the Cross is? Do not shun it. Love it, for it comes from Me, and I shall never leave you without the strength to bear it. I bore it for love of you, will you not bear it for love of Me?"
--- Words of Christ to Josefa Menendez: May 20, 1923. Poitiers, France. Way of Divine Love, p. 328
Our Lady Of Fatima's Plea For Sacrifice
The most blessed Mary was the woman predicted in Scripture (Gen. 3:15), who was to crush the serpent's head, who is a murderer and liar from the beginning. She was the woman addressed by Jesus from the cross, left to us as His last will and testament as our mother (John 19:27). And she was the same woman clothed with the sun in the 12th chapter of the Apocalypse, who was also seen at Fatima clothed with the sun. At Fatima she said that men must cease offending God and do penance. Up to now, the majority has not paid attention to her request, and they persist in their mortal sins. She also solicited prayers and sacrifices for souls, because many go to perdition and eternal condemnation, because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. With these words she was reminding us of the dogma of the communion of saints, that members of the church can help others by their prayers, sacrifices, sufferings, and reparation. "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Rom. 12:5) She entreated the three seers of Fatima to offer themselves to suffer, and they responded, offering themselves in expiation. One of them, merely a child, attained heroism in suffering. Through these simple souls she is speaking to all of us, to submit to the will of Her Son, and to offer ourselves in reparation. Suffering and prayer is our one hope, our only hope and our last hope, for peace and salvation. If we do not pay attention to her request for prayer and sacrifices to save ourselves and souls from hell, there is no hope of victory.
What Does The Bible Say About Animal/Pet Euthanasia?
While the Bible nowhere explicitly addresses animal/pet euthanasia, there are definitely some biblical principles that apply. In Genesis 1:26 God declares, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Essentially, as the highest order of created beings on the earth, humanity has full authority over all other creatures on the planet. While having dominion over the animals includes the right to kill animals for food (Genesis 9:2), it goes far beyond that. We are caretakers/stewards of God's creation. We are all, in a sense, to be shepherds over the creatures that share this planet with us.
The Bible makes it clear that we are to treat animals with dignity, respect, and mercy. Proverbs 12:10 states, "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal…" The responsibility to be merciful to animals was exempt from the command to not work on the Sabbath day: "If one of you have an ass or an ox that falls into a pit on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" (Luke 14:5). The Bible also indicates that when an animal is a threat to people or other animals, it should be put to death (Exodus 21:28-35).
With these principles in mind, a biblical practice of animal/pet euthanasia can be developed. We are to be merciful to animals, and we have the authority to end the lives of animals. So, if euthanizing an animal would be a merciful act, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. If we see an animal suffering, with no hope of recovery, the most merciful thing we could do is quickly and as painlessly as possible end its life. We are also free to do everything we can to preserve an animal's life. But, again, when the time comes, and the most reasonable and merciful thing to do is to euthanize the animal, it is absolutely a decision God has given us the authority to make.
Our Salvation is in the Cross - By St. Alphonsus de Liguori
XI. Our Salvation is in the Cross.
“Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world!” So sings the holy Church on Good Friday. In the cross is our salvation, our strength against temptations, our detachment from earthly pleasures; in the cross is found the true love of God. We must, therefore, resolve to bear with patience that cross which Jesus Christ sends us, and to die upon it for the sake of Jesus Christ, as he died upon his cross for the love of us. There is no other way to enter heaven but to resign ourselves to tribulations until death. And thus may we find peace, even in suffering. When the cross comes, what means is there for not loving peace, except the uniting of ourselves to the divine will? If we do not take this means, let us go where we will, let us do what we may, we shall never fly from the weight of the cross. On the other hand, if we carry it with good-will, it will bear us to heaven, and give us peace upon earth.
“What does he gain who refuses the cross? He increases its weight. But he who embraces it, and bears it with patience, lightens its weight, and the weight it self becomes a consolation; for God abounds with grace to all those who carry the cross with good-will in order to please him. By the law of nature there is no pleasure in suffering; but divine love, when it reigns in a heart, makes it take delight in its sufferings.
“Oh, that we would consider the happy condition we shall enjoy in Paradise, if we be faithful to God, in enduring toils without lamenting; if we do not complain against God, who commands us to suffer, but say with Job, “Let this be my comfort, that he should not spare in afflicting me, nor contradict the words of the Holy One.” If we are sinners and have deserved hell, this should be our comfort in the tribulations which befall us, that we should be chastised in this life; because this is the sure sign that God will deliver us from eternal chastisement.
“Miserable is that sinner who prospers in this world! Who ever suffers a bitter trial, let him cast a glance at the hell which he has deserved, and thus the pains he endures will seem light. If, then, we have committed sins, this ought to be our continual prayer to God, O Lord, spare not pains, but give me, I pray Thee, strength to endure them with patience, that I may not oppose myself to Thy holy will. I will not oppose the words of the Holy One; in everything I unite myself to that which Thou wilt appoint for me, saying always, with Jesus Christ, Even so, Father; for so hath it seemed good to Thee.
“The soul which is governed by divine love seeks only God. When a man has given all the substance of his house for love, he will despise it as nothing. He that loves God despises and renounces everything that does not help him to love God; and in all the good works that he does, in his penitential acts and his labors for the glory of God, he seeks not consolations and sweetnesses of spirit; it is enough for him to know that he pleases God. In a word, he ever strives in all things to deny himself, renouncing every pleasure of his own; and then he boasts of nothing and is puffed up with nothing; but calls himself an unprofitable servant, and, setting himself in the lowest place, he abandons himself to the divine will and mercy.
“We must change our tastes in order to become saints. If we do not arrive at a state in which bitter appears sweet, and sweet bitter, we shall never attain to a perfect union with God. In this consist all our security and perfection: in suffering with resignation all things that are contrary to our inclinations, as they happen to us day by day, whether they are small or great. And we must suffer them for those purposes for which the Lord desires that we should endure them: (1) to purify our selves from the sins we have committed; (2) to merit eternal life; (3) to please God, which is the chief and most noble end at which we can aim in all our doings. Let us, then, ever offer ourselves to God, to suffer every cross that he may send us; and let us take care to be ever ready to endure every toil for the love of him, in order that, when it comes we may be ready to embrace it, saying, as Jesus Christ said to Peter when he was taken in the garden by the Jews to be led to death, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” God hath given me this cross for my good, and shall I say to him that I will not receive it?
“And whenever the weight of any cross seems very heavy, let us immediately have recourse to prayer, and God will give us strength to endure it meritoriously. And let us then recollect what St. Paul said, that no tribulation of this world, however grievous it may be, can be compared with the glory which God prepares for us in the world to come. Let us, therefore, reanimate our faith whenever tribulations afflict us; let us first cast our eyes upon the crucified One, who was in agonies for us upon the cross, and let us look also at Paradise, and on the blessings that God prepares for those who suffer for his love; and thus we shall not be faint-hearted, but shall thank him for the pains he gives us to suffer, and shall desire that he may give us more to suffer. Oh, how the saints rejoice in heaven, not that they have possessed honors and pleasures upon earth, but that they have suffered for Jesus Christ! Everything that passes is trifling; that only is great which is eternal, and never passes away.
“O my Jesus! how comforting is that which Thou sayest to me, “Turn unto Me, and I will turn to you.” For the sake of creatures, and of my own miserable tastes, I have left Thee; now I leave all, and turn to Thee; and I am confident that Thou wilt not reject me, if I desire to love Thee; for Thou hast told me that Thou art ready to embrace me. Receive me, then, into Thy grace; make me know the great good that Thou art, and the love that Thou hast borne to me, that I may no more leave Thee. O my Jesus! pardon me; O my beloved! pardon me the offences I have committed against Thee. Give me the love of Thee, and then do with me what Thou wilt. Chastise me as much as Thou wilt; deprive me of every thing, but deprive me not of Thyself. Were the whole world to come and offer me all its blessings, I declare that I desire Thee alone, and nothing more. O my Mother! recommend me to thy Son—he giveth thee whatever thou askest; in thee I trust.
XII. How much it Pleases Jesus Christ that we Suffer for the Love of Him.
“If any one will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” It will be useful to make a few reflections on these words of Jesus Christ. He says, “If any one will come after Me;” he does not say, “to me,” but, “after me.” The Lord desires that we should come close after him; we must therefore walk in the same road of thorns and sufferings in which he walked. He goes before, and does not rest until he reaches Calvary, where he dies; therefore, if we love him, we must follow him even to death. And thus it is necessary that every one should deny himself; that is, that he should deny himself everything that self-love demands, but that is not pleasing to Jesus Christ.
“Our Lord says further, “Let him take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Let us consider these last words one by one. Let him take up; it avails little to carry the cross by compulsion; all sinners bear it, but without merit; to bear it with merit, we must embrace it voluntarily. His cross; under this word is implied every kind of tribulation, which is called a “cross” by Jesus Christ, in order that the name may render it sweet, from the thought that he died on the cross for love of us.
“He also says, “his cross.” Some persons when they receive spiritual consolations, offer themselves to suffer as great things as were endured by the martyrs, hot irons, piercing nails, and tortures; but then they cannot endure a headache, the carelessness of a friend, the ill temper of a relative. My brother, my sister, God does not ask you to endure hot irons, piercing nails, and tortures; but he desires that you should suffer patiently this pain, this annoyance, this contempt. A certain nun would fain go to suffer in a desert; she would perform great acts of penance; but yet she cannot endure such a one for her Superior, or such a one for her companion in her duties; but God desires that she should bear that cross which he gives her to suffer, and not that which she would herself choose.
“He says daily. Some persons embrace the cross at the beginning, when it reaches them; but when it lasts long, they say, “Now I can bear no more.” Yet God wills that we should go on to endure it with patience, and even that we should bear it continually, even till death. See, then, that salvation and perfection consist in these three words, let him deny; we must deny to our self-love whatever is not right: let him take up; we must embrace the cross that God gives us: let him follow; we must follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ even to death.
“Let us be persuaded that for this end God keeps us in the world, that we may bear the crosses he sends us; and in this consists the merit of our life. Therefore our Saviour, because he loves us, came into this world, not for enjoyment, but to suffer, in order that we might follow in his steps. “To this end you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps.” Let us watch him, as he goes before with his cross, to point out the road by which we must follow him, if we would be saved. Oh, what a joy it is, in every trouble that befalls us, to say to Jesus Christ, “Lord, is it Thy will that I should endure this cross? I accept it, and will endure it as long as it pleases Thee.”
“Many persons are delighted to hear one speak of prayer, of peace, of love to Jesus Christ; but they find little pleasure in hearing one speak of crosses or of suffering. These are satisfied so long as the wind breathes with spiritual delights, but if it ceases, and there comes some adversity or desolation, in which the Lord hides himself in order to prove them, and deprives them of their usual comfort, they leave off prayer, Communion, and mortifications, and abandon themselves to ill-humor and lukewarmness, seeking their pleasure from earthly things. But these souls love themselves more than Jesus Christ; while they who do not love him with an interested love,—for the sake of consolations, but with a pure love, and only because he is worthy of hove,—do not leave their usual devout exercises for any dryness or weariness which they experience, being content to please God; and they offer themselves to suffer this desolation even till death, and through all eternity, if God so will it. Jesus Christ, says St. Francis de Sales, is as kind in desolation as in consolation. Souls that love God find their comfort and sweetness in suffering; in recollecting that they suffer for his love, and say, “How sweet it is, O my Lord! to those who love Thee to suffer for Thee! Oh, that I might die for the love of Thee, my Jesus, who hast died for me!” All this, and still more, is claimed from us by Jesus Christ, who chose a life of pains, and a bitter death, without the slightest relief, for love of us; in order to teach us that if we would love him, we must love him as he loved us. Oh, how dear to Jesus Christ is a soul which suffers and loves! O divine gift! gift, above every other gift; to love in suffering, and to suffer in loving!
“O my Jesus! Thou alone hast been able to teach us these maxims of salvation, all contrary to the maxims of the world; and Thou alone canst give us strength to suffer crosses with patience. I do not pray Thee to exempt me from suffering; I only pray Thee to give me strength to suffer with patience and resignation. O Eternal Father, Thy Son has promised that whatever we ask Thee in his name, Thou wilt give it us. Behold, we ask this of Thee: give us grace to endure with patience the pains of this life; hear us for the love of Jesus Christ. And Thou, O my Jesus! pardon me all the offences I have committed against Thee, in that I have not been willing to suffer with patience the troubles Thou hast sent me. Give me Thy love, that it may give me strength to suffer all for love of Thee. Deprive me of everything, of every earthly good, of relatives, friends, health of body, of every comfort; deprive me even of life; but not of Thy love. Give me Thyself, and I ask no more. O most holy Virgin! obtain for me an enduring love for Jesus Christ, even till death.” (St. Alphonsus de Liguori - The Ascetical Works. Volume II. The Way of Salvation and of Perfection.)