| Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr
1 Maccabees 6:1-13
Psalm 9:2-3, 4, 6, 16, 19
I’m not very familiar with Maccabees, but this reading really
struck me. In Luke, the Sadducees try to trip Jesus up on some pretty
strange marriage rule questions. Jesus responds that these rules are
irrelevant after death. After the resurrection of the dead, we can
no longer die. We worship the God of the living, not the God of the
dead. The Psalmist proclaims that the needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish. And in Maccabees,
King Antiochus is overwhelmed when his conquest fails. He is struck
with fear and very much shaken. He is sick with grief and overwhelmed
with sorrow. The king cries out “now I am dying, in bitter grief, in
a foreign land.”
Life is a gift. It is to be treasured and guarded.
Much of our life is about the instinct to survive. And yet none of
us will survive this life. Not one. I sat in the hospital room
and listened to the doctor say that my dad had a non-Hodgkins lymphoma about
the size of an orange sitting on his heart. The doctor said that, if
you had to get cancer, this was the one to get because it was very treatable.
The doctor did not know at that time that my little sister had died of a
non-Hodgkins lymphoma twenty years earlier. He recommended a treatment
of aggressive chemotherapy. To be honest, I expected my dad to say
thanks, but no thanks. But he agreed. Only someone who has been
through chemotherapy or watched a loved one go through it can understand
my feelings on this. I hate chemotherapy. I mean, I hate the
very word chemotherapy. I watched my sister reduced from a vibrant
teenager to a helpless shell. And, in the end, I wasn’t sure if it
was the cancer or the chemo that finally killed her.
My dad had seen the same thing and yet he still agreed to the
treatment. I’ve watched my dad very closely over the last six weeks.
He is just the opposite of King Antiochus. King Antiochus, when confronted
with possible defeat, took to his bed in grief. He was overwhelmed
with his sorrow. He wailed to his friends that he was dying in bitter
grief. My dad has been the model for me of how a Christian man can
face adversity and possible death. It has already been a tough road.
He is very weak, he has lost weight, lost his hair and beard and still faces
the prospect that this whole effort may not work. He is upbeat, he
smiles, he is thankful to see family and friends, he works to keep himself
healthy and he is simply grateful for the time he has. I am thankful
for the model he provides for me and for my family. I can only hope
that, when faced with death, my faith will be as strong as my dad’s.
Scripture is full of models of those who face death. Some
are good models and some are not. King Antiochus is not a good model.
Jesus is a great model. We all face darkness sometime. We can
allow it to overwhelm us. Or we can allow God’s light to guide us through
it. My prayer today is for those facing illness, for their loved ones
and for those helping to treat the illness.
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