Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Today's reading comes from the Second Book of Maccabees and tells the story of the martyrdom of Eleazar, a Jewish scribe. I point out his position in the Jewish community because we often get a negative picture of the scribes in the Gospels because some of them were part of the group of Jewish authorities who opposed Jesus and tried to trip him up. This story, then, reveals that at least this particular scribe was faithful to the covenant relationship sealed between God and the Israelites on Mount Sinai.
Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is Eleazar's statement that he will suffer the torture of his capture "with joy" in his soul. I could not help but hear an echo in the back of my mind as I read this story, an echo of Colossians 1:24, the passage which is so much a part of our CUSAN view of redemptive suffering. What is completely amazing about Eleazar's statement is that while St. Paul could make his statement of joy while suffering in the light of the resurrection, Eleazar lived before Christ before the notion of eternal life had fully developed. Eleazar, an old man according to the text, suffers joyfully in order to give a good example to young people of joyful service to God.
While CUSANS are very specific about the gift of redemptive suffering, it is also important to remember that the very act of suffering the pain and frustration of chronic illness and/or disability is also a witness to those around us of the joy we experience through our life and relationship with God. Rather than looking upon illness and/or disability, many CUSANS speak of the gift that is present in their situation. Some even speak of it as a privilege mindful of the fact that we are given a rare opportunity to "preach" the Gospel through our less than perfect situation.
One could do worse than accept Eleazar as a patron saint of persons with chronic illness and/or disability.