LIVING and DYING. LIFE and DEATH.

November 6, 2022 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110622.cfm)

Are you living to die? Or are you dying to live? Do we seek to give life? Or do we suck out life? We have just celebrated All Souls’ Day and remembered the lives of our departed loved ones.  We remember not just their life but also how they died. Some may have died in tragic and painful events. Some also may have died peacefully. Remembering their death and being aware also of our own, sooner or later, what gives us hope is the promise of the resurrection, a blessed life that we will share with Jesus.

However, the promise of the resurrection is not just something that will be for the future alone. Its grace and mystery are so vast and beyond any boundaries that we are already being invited in the here-and-now. And so, as we are being invited to hold on to that promise and have a taste of that blessed life in our present context, allow me now to journey with you a bit deeper on this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In 2019, I was in a funeral wake of a young professional in his mid-twenties. Because of much pain and hurts that he was experiencing in his young life, he couldn’t endure them. He was helpless and felt hopeless. He felt alone and lonely. All of these directed him to depression until his depression clouded his mind and heart which also led him to kill himself.

Without judging him, such situation brought me to ask myself, how am I living my life right now? Am I letting hopelessness and despair to deprive me to live fully and meaningfully with others?

Back in college, I met a leper in Cebu, an old woman in her 70s, abandoned by her family in her teen-age years when leprosy began to manifest in her body. Yet, despite being abandoned and left alone in the hospital for lepers, she remained hopeful in life by resisting to be eaten up by despair, by emotional hurts, by abandonment and by the very suffering she was enduring. Thus, she even adopted an abandoned baby girl with cerebral palsy whom she named Nancy. She found Nancy in a garbage bin in Cebu. Despite her poverty, she accepted Nancy in her life and let Nancy feel a mother’s love, affection and care. Yet, as Nancy grew up and due to her failing eyesight and old age, she has to let go of Nancy and bring her to a group of Sisters who could provide better the needs of Nancy. Despite the pain of separation and of the loneliness she would endure by losing Nancy beside her, she let her go. In that way, she gave life to Nancy even though she herself struggled to live. She died peacefully in the hospital for lepers knowing that she was capable of loving and being loved.

With this encounter, I also asked myself, am I giving life? Have I tried to give myself in order to give life to others? Or am I just busy living only thinking of myself without any regard and care for others?

In the second book of the Maccabees, we have heard the story of the seven brothers and their mother who were tortured and killed. The king wanted them to violate the law of God. Despite the trials and persecution, the reverence they gave to the law of God made them commit their whole life even up to death. This was their expression that there is more in this life, and that is, the resurrection.

Their story tells us that suffering and persecution, trials even sickness and death are nothing because the righteous, those who are favored by God will be raised up.

This is what Paul also tried to express in his second letter to the Thessalonians. Paul confessed, “The Lord is faithful.” This was his experience and his reminder to the Christians in Thessalonica that amidst trials and persecutions, they too will be confident in God’s faithfulness. Paul also asked for prayers and hoped that the Thessalonians, their hearts, will be directed to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ. Christ is therefore, our strength and confidence in times of trials and the fullness of our joy. This fullness of joy reminds us of the blessed life in the promise of the resurrection.

But let us remember, this fullness of joy or blessed life or the promise of the resurrection begins to unfold today, in our present moment, in the quality of our life and relationships.

This was the failure of the Sadducees, the fundamentalists at the time of Jesus categorically denied the promise of resurrection. For them, this was completely foolish because this was not clearly affirmed in the Pentateuch or the Torah. However, the situation they gave to Jesus of a woman marrying the brothers of her dead husband, one after another death, was a complete misunderstanding of life and the resurrection.

Their denial of the resurrection was a denial of God’s power over death. Their misunderstanding of life that only ends in death expressed hopelessness. And their perversion of one’s life that remains the same if there is ever a resurrection, referring to their question to Jesus, is an insult to the fullness of joy in the resurrection. Resurrection, as Jesus said, is not a state of life that we have now but the fullness of joy and total blessed life shared with the God of hope and of life.

How are we invited now so that the hope of the resurrection shall grow in our hearts, mold our faith and develop the quality of our life and relationships? There are three invitations for us now.

First, live to share hope. This invites us that we ourselves will become an instrument of hope not discouragement or fear. Let our very person and our presence express hope for those friends who may be struggling now, needing support and understanding, company and acceptance.  Living to share hope is call from us that we are anchored and secured in our relationship with God, who is our hope.

Second, live to share love. This calls us to go beyond ourselves and beyond our comforts in order to show concretely our love. Living to share love requires our commitment in our relationships which can be difficult, or even painful at times. Yet, it is in truly living to share love that we too experience what life is.

Third, live to share life. This directs us to recognize that we can actually regenerate life, inspire life, defend life and motivate life. Indeed, this is an invitation to us not to suck the life of others, or to abuse, oppress and kill the life of others. All of these are not from the God of life but of evil. Like what Jesus did, this could be quite challenging because living to share life is giving totally our life for the sake of others.

And so, as we are called to live to share hope, love and life, may the God of the Living and not of the dead, bless us with a joyful and blessed life today and tomorrow. Kabay pa.

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