One of my favorite new shows is the ABC show “Flash Forward”. It does a great job of combining drama and science fiction from a moral standpoint. I wanted to discuss a recent episode (“The Gift”) that had a major scene that I think relates very well to our Christian faith. If you haven’t seen this episode yet or think you may want to watch this show from the beginning, you may want to avoid reading below until you’ve done so. Otherwise, the plot of the story doesn’t matter so much as the content of the message and its’ application to our faith.
In this episode, an FBI agent “Al” decides to commit suicide to avoid causing another woman’s death (that has yet to occur). He finds out from his flash forward that he is the cause of the death of a woman named Celia but doesn’t find out how or why. He also finds out that she has twin boys that would be moved on to foster care after her death. This hits him deeply in the present and he decides to commit suicide to prevent this from happening. In addition to this, his committing suicide proves to the world that what they all saw in their own flash forwards don’t necessarily have to be the case. His own flash forward can’t come true now that he’s dead.
While, as a Catholic, I am obligated to look at suicide as a path all of us should avoid. It is seen as giving up rather than fighting through whatever is bringing us down in that moment. In this case, however, I think it relates well to one of Jesus’ comments when he said (paraphrasing), “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Al truly lays down his life (via suicide) for Celia and her two sons by undeniably avoiding the possibility that he cause her death.
This also reminds me of what St. Maximillian Kolbe was known for. He held true to that quote of Jesus’ by giving up his own life to take the place of another man’s in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. He didn’t know that man personally but knew he had a family, so this wasn’t even a case of laying down his life for his friends but a complete stranger. Al’s decision to do this for Celia was the same as Al only knew Celia’s name and that she had two sons (he didn’t know where she lived, what she looked like or even what her last name was). He sacrificed himself anyway to save her and, in the process, gave hope to the world over.
Pretty remarkable stuff and quite profound for a TV show on network television. If you aren’t watching this show, it’s certainly worthwhile as it raises a lot of good questions and moral dilemmas.