Tobit 13:2, 3-4, 6, 7-8, 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
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.