NOVEMBER 6, 2016
On the way home from my sister’s house (5 hours for a distance of 150 km), we stopped at a religious convent and handed your gifts to Sister Maria Hoa. She led me to a family whom she visits once in a while. Both mom and dad have recovered from leprosy but scars are still visible on their hands and especially on their face. Thanks be to God the 3 children from 5 to 10 years old have no sign of leprosy. As they lived at the bottom of our society they often mentioned the hope that the next life will be better. Since they were Buddhist and very religious, they believed in the re-incarnation. If they lived a good moral life, they will be re-incarnated in a better level of life with more blessing, physically, materially and spiritually.
As Catholic, we believe that we have only one life to live. What happens after death will be different from our earthly existence. We don’t come back to earth as human anymore. Have you ever had a moment to reflect on the afterlife?
Both the first and third readings of this weekend focus on the topic of life after death. It is quite clear from our own experience that people do not reap rewards of their efforts in this life: very often the just person seems to suffer, while the evil one seems to get more out of life than he has put into it. It is inconceivable that a just God would tolerate this situation. It is of the essence of the Christian faith that life does not end with the grave. Yet it is extremely difficult to picture what life after death will be like. Basically the problem is that we can describe the after-life only with the concepts and language which we have built up in our own space-time framework.
The scriptures, too, are subject to the same limitation. They use many different images which give us some glimpse into a world which is quite outside the scope of our imagination: to be with the Lord forever is the reward of living and dying in Christ (1 Thes. 4 :16 f.); our 'lowly bodies' will be transformed into the likeness of the glorious body of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3 :21); every tear will be wiped away from our eyes, and there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain 'for the former things will pass away' (Rev. 21 :4). Christians live in hope of enjoying eternal communion with God, but this crown of life (Rev. 2:10) will be given only to those who have been faithful unto death.
Besides these descriptions and promises in the Bible, we still don’t know exactly what the afterlife is about. Maybe one of the reasons why God does not tell us clearly is illustrated by the story of a boy sitting down to a bowl of salad when there’s a chocolate cake at the end of the table. He’s going to have a rough time eating that salad when his eyes are on the cake. And if the Lord had explained everything to us about what’s ours to come, I think we’d have a rough time with our salad down here too.
For Christians, then, death is not loss, but gain (Phil. 1:21), and it ought to be met with hopeful expectation rather than with sad resignation. This living in hope of a better future life is no 'pie in-the-sky' distracting us from involvement in the present life. St. Luke Gospel speaks of 'those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead' (20 :35), and we are adjudged worthy only if we share the sufferings of Christ and reproduce in our own lives the pattern of his death (Phil. 3 :10). Be prepared and be ready.
In the evening of the last day of October, the Month of our Lady of the Rosary, I went to a Marian Shrine nearby my home. About 3000 people were there celebrating the Eucharist. The bishop emphasized that Mary was the gate through which Jesus entered the world. Now she is the gate that through her we enter the joy of heaven. Pray for us, holy Mother of God.
May God bless you.
ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO THEM O LORD AND LET YOUR PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.