At the time of writing our representatives in Parliament are debating the issue of what has become known as “Assisted Dying”. It is an emotive subject, no less for Christians than for those who speak from a humanist perspective.
None of us can bear the thought of watching the suffering of a loved one or friend when illness has overcome the power of medication, and death approaches.
It is a profound aspect of our human nature to want to alleviate the suffering of others, and those who would support the concept of “assisted dying” would argue that the logical extension of this compassion would be to allow an individual (within certain legal constraints) to be able, in his or her final days or weeks of life, to determine the time of departure.
However, this is a flawed argument and a dangerous path to follow. What, today, might be considered compassionate in the most exceptional circumstances, will almost inevitably become tomorrow’s norm. In an ageing population this will strike fear into many hearts. For others, the cost of care or the lure of inheritance will bring additional pressures to bear on the sick and vulnerable.
Life is too sacred a gift to cross this ultimately dehumanising line. However much anguish we may experience at the suffering of a loved one, my faith demands that we protect and care for the lives of vulnerable people to the very last breath.
If you have been away on holiday over the past few weeks, I hope you had an enjoyable time. If you’ve been holidaying in the UK, I certainly hope you have been able to make the best of our somewhat strange August weather!
In our family, though we all enjoy a good dose of sunshine and warmth, we have always taken the view that the unpredictability of our island weather will never spoil our holiday.
For me, especially, a change of scenery, the ability to lay responsibilities aside for a few days and perhaps take the opportunity to explore somewhere new, or even to walk along a windswept beach by a lively sea shore; these are some of the holiday gifts which refresh and rejuvenate me.
Such things are important for all of us, perhaps especially in the times in which we live.
We inhabit a 24/7 world where we don’t get the natural sabbatical time which our forebears often took for granted. Time to pause for breath, gather our thoughts, re-evaluate our priorities and reflect on the purpose of our lives; time for God; time to just enjoy being human again, and to remember that this life is God’s gift to us: these are the things which get squeezed out of our lives in the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Let’s remember that our holidays derive mostly from the ancient feast days and Holy Days of the Church, that days off should not be filled with frenetic activity from morning to night, and that spending time with God in the depths of our being can be the most inspiring of pastimes.
So I hope you enjoyed and were refreshed by your summer days. Perhaps this is a good time to decide to make that space for yourself and your Creator much more regularly in the weeks and months ahead. After all, it’s nearly Christmas!