Pastor’s Corner for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ


I recently spent a few days in Durban visiting my family, especially my father whom I had not seen since February. Given my father’s age and state of health I and my brothers have had conversations about what should be done were he to fall seriously sick or have a major medical episode. My family has always been quite open and practical about things like that, so it was something quite normal for us. However, I know it isn’t normal for everyone.

Some families may not have a culture of openness, some people may belong to cultures that frown on speaking about death. To speak of and plan for death can invite the accusation of callousness or witchcraft.

I hope that members of our Trinity family will somehow be able to have meaningful conversations with the people that they love. Being clear about what we want done to us or for us in medical emergencies or in any end-of-life situation is a great kindness.

Imagine that a family member, an elderly parent, has a brain embolism. This places the person in a coma from which they are unlikely to recover. What lengths would you go to in order to keep their bodies alive? If they were on a ventilator, a machine which does the breathing for a person who cannot do so for themselves, who would be the one to decide if or when to turn it off.

I hope that you are never in that situation, and I hope that you never put your children in that situation. That means you need to start having meaningful conversations about end-of-life issues. These conversations can be moments of grace when we affirm our belief in a loving God who wants to take us into his arms at the eve of our days. They can be moments when we share how deeply we love each other and want to respect the wishes of our family members in those dire moments. They can be moments when we share our fears and vulnerabilities in a safe and loving environment, rather than be forced to make decisions under pressure in a hospital.

Fr. Bruce Botha SJ