We experience a similar paradox in our own deaths: while it may seem that our life is being taken from us through the evil of a particular ailment or the ravages of a particular disease, we can reply that nothing takes away our life, because nothing has power over our being, except what is ordained from above. In his providence and omniscience, years before the fact, God already knows and foresees that unique confluence of events that will constitute our death, whether it be by stroke or cardiac arrest, liver failure or Alzheimer's, or any other means. By spiritually embracing in God that specific path to death, our freedom is elevated to new heights; indeed, we "achieve control" in the most important way possible, through willed surrender and radical gift in our innermost depths.
Jesus foresaw that his greatest work lay ahead as he ascended Calvary to embrace his own powerlessness and self-emptying. Although we may feel condemned to our powerlessness as we receive help from others in our sickness, and although we may feel supremely useless as we are "nailed" to our hospital bed, our active, inward embrace of the cross unleashes important graces for ourselves and others, and reveals a refulgent light beyond the obscurity of every suffering. Jesus' radical embracing of his Passion -- and our radical embracing of our own -- marks the supreme moment of a person who achieves control over his or her destiny through immersion into the hope-filled and redemptive designs of God.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org