Yesterday morning my mother called me with the startling news that a second cousin on my father's side had died. Deborah was 42; because of a complicated family system I don't recall meeting her. Deborah's father is my father's cousin and we would see him every now-and-again. Deborah's death was kept a secret from family and friends; a proper Mass of Christian Burial with the prayerful solidarity of the family and friends is not happening. The ministrations of the Catholic Church were sidelined. The cross of addiction on which Deborah hung --which is known to many in this world-- was quite heavy, probably too heavy, for Deborah and for her family to carry. I am presuming that Deborah's death is and will continue to be for years to come an unfathomable puzzle --full of incredible pain and sorrow-- for the family and friends who survive. My also think that God mourns the loss of His daughter.
Where is God in the circumstances of Deborah's pain and ultimately in her death at 42? Looking at the history of humanity from the Christian perspective, suffering and death is not part of the divine plan. We are not made for suffering and death but we are faced with these things. The question of evil and suffering is known by Christianity as a struggle with the rebellious powers that enslave the world, like drug addiction, and the power of God's love. What God permits because of the supreme gift of our personal freedom often runs contrary to His will. Since we live in a biological world and our biology has natural limits and can't be sustained if it's oppressed by exterior forces (disease, addiction, diabetes, cancer, etc). Our human freedom is God's supreme gift to us and it allows us to say "Yes" to God or "No" to Him; God allows for the possibility free will to run contrary to what He wants for us. Sadly, we have made our autonomy a god and we would sacrifice anything for it on the altars of selfishness; sometimes our actions say we love death more than the gift of life. Man and woman love the word "No" in the face of living life to its fullest potential in God (and the Church). When the Church says drugs are bad for you, we say "let me use them."
As a Christian I believe that Deborah's life, not her death was tragic. Today she knows the fullness of who God is, today she knows His mercy and healing and today she knows intimately the embrace of His love.
Pray for those who struggle with addiction and for those who bear this cross alone. Pray that the community of faith will assist those left behind to know that they are loved by Jesus and by others. Pray that we use our freedom wisely. Pray for Deborah's peace for her family who survive to make sense of life now.
Give eternal rest, O Lord, to Deborah and let her share your glory.