Reflection – June 9th, 2024 – 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

How Do We View Dying

“Even though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

I feel very confident in saying that almost everyone who reads this has journeyed with someone, or has known someone, who has had or has a debilitating disease that just eats away at them until they are a shell of who they used to be physically.  When journeying with someone who is going through this, or even just visiting with them, it can be hard to know what to say or what to do.  In reality, there are no words that are going to make them better but I do believe our mere presence is enough to bring some comfort.  When leaving after a visit with them we usually assure them that we are praying for them and to not give up hope.  Then when we do indeed pray for them and their condition only seems to worsen, we wonder if we are doing any good at all.  This is when we need to remember the words of Saint Paul in our second reading today as quoted above.  God may be bringing healing that is more needed than the physical.  Perhaps this journey through illness will lead to much needed reconciliation with a loved one and the mending of long fractured relationships that were broken for reasons no one seems to remember.

Several years ago, my wife’s aunt, whom she was very fond of, had fallen ill and it was terminal.  My wife went to visit her in the hospital on a Tuesday evening and when she returned, she was very distraught.  She told me her aunt, who was a loving, generous person, was so afraid.  It broke her heart that she was so scared.  That night, we did not pray for her aunt’s physical healing, but we did pray for her peace.  Thursday evening, when Kim went back to visit her, it looked like that prayer had been answered and her aunt seemed to be filled with a peace and a calm that was not there before.

I think when we are dealing with these terminal illnesses, we are quick to lose sight of the fact that we all have a shelf life.  Yet, there never seems to be a good time to die.  A friend told me recently that she was not afraid to die, but she didn’t want to die right now.  I think that is a close cousin of the saying, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” 

Going back to what to say or do when accompanying someone with a terminal illness, I think we could do well to invite them to read today’s second reading.  For me, there is great hope in this scripture passage, especially when Saint Paul writes, “for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.”  This is God’s promise to us. This is the reason we can have great hope in the middle of our sadness.

Centuries ago, when record keeping was not as precise as it is today, people did not gather to celebrate someone’s birthday.  Often  the birth date was a guess, at best.  What they did do, was gather on the one-year anniversary of someone’s death to celebrate the day they were born into the kingdom.  Right now, in my life, I have a brother who is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a daughter-in-law who is going to give birth any day.  The question for me is, do I have the faith to celebrate both births?

~Mark Mahoney, Pastoral Associate


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