Reflection for Saturday, November 22, 2003: 33rd week in Ordinary Time.

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O'Reilly, Daniel Patrick
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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."|| The reason this passage struck me so is that six weeks ago, on son number three's fifteenth birthday, I received a call from my brother telling me my dad was in the hospital and had been diagnosed with cancer. Nothing like cancer to put the rest of life in perspective. Everything else goes on the back burner. I don't think about death much until it's shoved in my face. Then it seems like the perverse punch line to a bad joke.|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.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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