Walking along the ocean shore in Barbados during the summertime and enjoying the beautiful scenery with the warm tropical sun, I learned some life lessons that would live with me for a long time. One of my major takeaways is from the rushing ocean current that often comes with so much force and speed as it heads towards the shore, but suddenly it dies down, and there is calmness.
The intermittent ocean current tells me that nothing is permanent in this earthly existence. Beauty is just for a moment; it would soon fade or become obsolete. The physical strength you have would wane with time. Wealth and riches dwindle as time progresses. What about human life? The Book of Psalms (103:15-16) answers this when it says:
As for man, his days are like grass; it flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
Furthermore, the Book of Job (14:1-2), adds, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
Life is precious, and we all tend to do all in our power to preserve life to the optimal level. I was once at the 96th birthday of a matriarch, and when she was responding to the guests at the surprise birthday set up by her great-grandchildren, she started by asking God to keep her alive to celebrate more years. That was not a bad prayer; however, we expected words of thanksgiving to God for the life and health so far.
One of the best things you can wish anyone is a long life; in fact, it is the most famous prayers in the world, followed by prosperity. On the other hand, the worst thing you can wish anyone is a death wish.
An armed man once entered a church in the middle of the service and facing the congregation; he asked those who are ready to die for Jesus Christ to stand and raise their hands while those who wouldn’t wish to die for the Lord should run away from the Church. The entire congregation moved except the minister, and a few elderly ones and the armed man turns and says to the minister, “preach on sir, these are the real Christians!”
Dying to Live
The First Reading today (2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14), tells us about the seven brothers and their mother. They were arrested and tortured to death successively following the orders of the pagan king, Antiochus, who wanted them to denounce their faith in God by eating swine flesh. The spectacular thing about their death was their mother’s encouragement and their unwavering faith in God’s saving power that would lead them to everlasting life.
The narrative shows that their faith in God’s promise of life after the earthly life helped them to remain steadfast in their resolve to give up their lives. Before his gruesome death, the second brother says this to the King, “you accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us to LIVE AGAIN forever. It is for his law that we are dying”. The fourth brother on his part says that it is his choice to die at the hands of men with the HOPE of being raised by God.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 20:27-38), some Sadducees come to our Lord Jesus Christ to ask his opinion about resurrection using a weird story about seven brothers who died successively but were married to the same woman. They wanted to know whose wife she would become at the time of resurrection.
Our Lord answers them by first indicating that at the time of the resurrection, people do not engage in marriage; neither do they die because they become like angels. Here our Lord Jesus Christ gives us an idea about life after the earthly life. The first thing we learn is that worldly concerns like marriage and death do not have relevance. Next, he indicates that the resurrected souls would become like angels and would be children of God. The basic fact about angels is that they are spiritual beings, and they exist only to do the will of God.
Moving Forward: The Best Life is Beyond the Earth
What is the best form of life? Life without stress and setbacks? Sure, nobody likes to go through stress and setbacks; however, they are part of our life on earth. The beauty of life is living in accordance with the will of God and not about having the best of the material comforts of the world.
On the first day of November, we celebrated the solemnity of All the Saints, which means all our departed brothers and sisters who are now enjoying life after this earthly life. If we go by the description of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are now like angels and have become eternally, the children of God.
The life after this earthly existence is not a right we have as Christians; it is a reward for our steadfast love for God, especially as we strive to defend our faith in God. Often when people die, we mourn and cry because we would miss them. However, we often do not consider if they would receive the reward of rising to life following their faith and faithfulness to God.
At the graveside of Lazarus, our Lord Jesus Christ responding to Martha says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). It is our faith that life is not ended at death but transformed. For this reason, St. Paul tells the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:1) that when our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building not made by human hand in heaven.
The liturgy of the word today invites us to focus on life beyond earthly life. To achieve this, there would be a need for us to be open to the Lord’s strengthening in everything like St. Paul said in the Second Reading (2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5). The divine strengthening would, in turn, assist us in resisting sin and evil like the seven Maccabean brothers and their mother even at the cost of our earthly lives.
As we continue our journey of faith, let us keep our eye on the glorious life that would never end or be destroyed by anything. Have a beautiful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.