Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whitney Houston's life and death: a time to tell the truth

As you read the following three statements, try to guess where they are taken from: 1. "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance." (2288)

2. "The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law." (2291)

3. "If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for it's sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships." (2289)

I don't know what your answer is, but these quotes are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Are you surprised? We shouldn't be because as baptized Christians we ought to be familiar with the contents of the text that should be our guide in explaining and living our faith. What does this have to do with the death of Whitney Houston? Normally Everyday for Life Canada doesn't cover these events. But we thought that her death is a symptom of so much that is morally wrong with our modern society, that we decided to respond. If I were still teaching in a high school classroom, this would be my lesson.

The early death, at 48, of Whitney Houston - like that of Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse - has made and continues to make all the front pages and screens of the mainstream/social media. The reaction, for the most part, has been one of shock and dismay. Already, both her friends and the media, have hailed her as a princess of song, a goddess and an angel. She was kind to everybody; she will be missed, and some have said that her legacy will be that of having had one of the best female voices of all time. The accolades and the hyperboles will no doubt continue.

But as a Christian society, whether in life or in death, we should be telling each other the truth, not scandal and lies. As a society we are in denial about the need to respect, first of all our own body, and secondly that of others, including their souls. Why aren't Whitney's friends telling the truth: she died probably because of her indulgence with drugs, prescription or illicit, and alcohol. Her decline was made easier because her friends overlooked the demon in her life only to focus on her success, fame and wealth. For many Whitney was an asset, not a person first.

Perhaps she herself was in denial about her temptations. In short, she abused her life and was abused by others. Just think of the doctors that prescribed her the legal drugs. Take away the fame, and this modern tragedy takes place in so many homes, with the difference that it doesn't make media headlines, but the pain and the loss is no less.

Where were her applauding friends and fans in showing a concern for her health? Where was her ex-husband who seems so concerned about her death? Was there anyone helping her exercise the virtue of temperance? or to avoid the soul destructive use of drugs? Nobody, even those who believe in "the cult of the body", can escape the moral and physical consequences of the way we live our lives. We are responsible for the choices we make. In the end, they help to define the meaning of our lives. We cannot and must not try to gamble, sing or drug our way into heaven.

We don't ask these difficult questions because we are judging her, only God can be the one to judge, but we say these things to try to come to terms with the truth of her death. We do this hoping that her fans, young people and all of us can learn to avoid the destructive moral deceptions inherent in the life of a "star". We are all confronted by the same temptations. By glossing over the truth of her death, as a Christian society we continue to make it very hard to follow the Commandments and thus a Christian life. We cannot encourage indirectly or directly anyone to do evil for, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come." (Lk 17:1)

We are made in the image of God. If we truly believe that, then we must respect our physical health and our lives as coming from God. Both our bodies and our souls are not ours, but are gifts entrusted to us for a time. By taking good care, of not just of our own bodies, but also helping to take good care of the lives of others, we help to build the common good and more importantly we hope through the mercy of God to save our immortal souls: this is truly the "greatest love of all".

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment