Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Generally, we seek long life. We do numerous things to preserve life. We apply for life insurance, knowing that we will not be able to use it while we are still living, but so that others, especially immediate members of our families, would benefit from it when we die. We enroll in health care plans, not so much to preserve our good health, but so that when we are sick we can avail of benefits. We patronize and use anti-aging pills and make-up paraphernalia, knowing that we cannot go back to our physical youthfulness, simply to look younger than our age. One advertisement would say: Look 30 when you’re 50. Does it change anything? Yes. The amount of your money J. One would put it categorically: Oh, you don’t really look like you’re sixty. You look like you’re only 59 and a half J. Yes, the world adores physical youthfulness, so it looks for ways to make us look younger, but it cannot provide ways to make us wiser. Only in God can we have a wise and youthful spirit that defies age and time.
Developed nations pride themselves of medical advancements. So they have liposuction and skin-stretching clinics. Some Asian nations boast of group physical exercises to maintain good health. So they have group calisthenics in parks. Older people can boast of not having been exposed too much to electronic devices, thus, they have long life. But no one can say that he has the power to lengthen his life. No one, but God, can stretch the span of life of any living being. Despite the world’s advancements, God is still the author and destiny of life.
In one parish, a family called me to do the anointing of the sick to their dying father. They were already counting the last few minutes before he would expire, and almost everybody was crying at his deathbed. One of his daughters said to me: Father, come, quick. We are losing him. When I arrived, everybody stopped crying. We said the prayers, and just before I gave the final blessing he expired. To avoid the explosion of wailing, I said a few more prayers for the commendation of the dead. But right after the sign of the cross everybody exploded again crying. After a couple of weeks, I met with the family, and one of them said: Father, it was good that you arrived before he died; I think he was just waiting for a priest, so he could go and meet the Lord.
When everybody is well, we don’t think of losing them, and sometimes neglect our love for them. When they are ready to leave this world, it’s hard to let go of them. We don’t really know what it means to live in this world. So, we cling to what we have. It would probably be more comfortable leaving this world for the resurrection with the Lord, if we understand full well that our life is God’s. For many, the resurrection of the dead is only a teaching, not a reality, and trying to do anything to lengthen life becomes their goal. For us Christians, life on earth is our means to achieve our goal: Jesus Christ. We were not created to live forever here on earth. Our life here is a preparation for the next life.
The problem that the Sadducees presented to Jesus to solve was a problem of the unbeliever. The Sadducees also looked at Jesus as someone whom they could debate the faith with. But Jesus did not want a debate, for arguing about the faith could only confuse many. He is the way, the truth and the life. He came to the world to bring hope. For one who does not know God, the resurrection is just an item of faith for believers. The mother and her seven sons mentioned in the Book of Maccabees truly believed and proclaimed that resurrection from the dead was real. Their goal was neither their life nor death, but God. They had the courage to give up what they had received as gift, expecting to receive them back again in the Lord. Their courage was not due to the absence of fear, but in their trust in the Author and Destiny of life. One writer said: courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Our life is Jesus. Our resurrection is Jesus. Our means to arrive at the resurrection is Jesus Himself. When Martha told Jesus that Lazarus would not have died if He were with them, Jesus responded: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26). Thus, only if we submit to Him in faith and in works of charity, can He remove the stone that covers and weighs us down because of sin. Only in Jesus can we understand that our life and death will lead to the resurrection on the last day.
The celebration of the Eucharist is our greatest proof that Jesus is truthful and trustworthy, and will strengthen us and guard us from the evil one (2Thes 3:3). He gives Himself to us so that we can be holy and acceptable to the Father, for without Him we can do nothing. We also offer all that we have and all that we are; and by pouring little water into the wine, the priests prays: By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. The Eucharist is the greatest way Jesus comes to us, so that we can also go to Him and rise with Him. Let us commit ourselves to live through Him, with Him and in Him every day, so that the glory of the Resurrection will shine now and in the life to come.