Daily Reflection
September 24th, 2003
Barbara Dilly
Department of Sociology and Anthropology 
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Ezra 9:5-9
Tobit 13:2, 3-4, 6, 7-8, 6
Luke 9:1-6

As I reflect on the readings for today and how they connect in my life, I take comfort and am given guidance in coping with the recent death of my mother from breast cancer.  She was only 72, and otherwise very healthy and active in family and community life.  There is a deep sense of disbelief that her passing is real.  It has only been six weeks since she died and the process of grieving is still very consuming, although each day is different.  I keep thinking that I should have been able to do something to prevent her death.  I can relate to Ezra’s feelings of wretchedness.  Feelings of guilt, I am told, are normal in the process of grieving.  It is comforting to be reminded that God gives us relief from our guilt over what we have done or what we have left undone.

I know that no one expected me to be able to heal my mother from cancer.  But there still lingers the thought, that as an educated person, I should have intervened at some point and found another cancer center or identified an alternative cure.  But who could have done better than the Mayo Clinic where she took all the experimental chemo-therapies available?  And she did live four years longer than even they expected.  The lessons remind me that I need to reflect on God’s promise that she was not abandoned and neither am I. 

What I am experiencing is what we all must experience.  We all lose loved ones.  We all must acknowledge that there is much in this world that we cannot control.   There is no escaping death.  The Psalmist says no one can escape the scourges of life.  Rather than dwell on them, we are to consider what God has done for us, to celebrate each day with gladness.  It is not what I have lost that I should reflect on now, but thankfulness for what I had.  These Old Testament words give me comfort.

But the Gospel lesson challenges me to see where Jesus gives me guidance to show God’s greatness in the midst of so much sickness and disease.  How can I proclaim the Kingdom of God by curing diseases and healing the sick?  If I had such power and authority, I certainly would have used it to heal my mother.  And I would use it to heal all of the other people in my farming community who are dying of cancer.  The Mayo Clinic says the number of cases is of epidemic proportion.  Entire rural communities engage in on-going grieving as families experience multiple deaths and new cases are diagnosed daily.

What does Jesus want me to do?  For now, I have become a lot more sensitive to the suffering and losses of other people.  I am given the strength to proclaim the good news as I seek to console others, rather than seek to be consoled.  But I am also becoming more bold to pray that our society will ask the difficult questions about the relationships between agricultural chemicals and cancer.   Perhaps the cure for cancer has more to do with casting out demons in our environment than with casting out demons in our bodies.    

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