Tag Archives: eternal life

 Eternally Yours

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mk 12: 18-27) a group of Sadducees (a powerful priestly party that denies the resurrection of the dead) tries to confound Jesus by getting Him to comment on a hypothetical situation that would make resurrection from the dead ridiculous. They cite a situation similar to the one in today’s first reading from the Book of Tobit, where Sara, the daughter of Raguel has had the misfortune of being widowed seven times. They ask Jesus, “ At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her. “ Jesus answers them :

    “ Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”

    Jesus neutralizes their petty traps handily. But, in this sacred Scripture passage our Lord also gives us some hints about the mystery of life after death. Our loving God will give us the gift of being “ Like the angels in heaven “. Jesus seems to say that God IS the God of the Patriarchs, and since God is the pure source of life, He can only be the God of the living. Therefore these Patriarchs, many years after their “deaths”, must still be alive with and in Him. He is also our God, and always will be. We also have the hope of always living with Him throughout eternity.

    On this Pentecost Sunday, at Mass in my Parish the last song about the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the music of Beethoven’s “Song of Joy” from his 9th Symphony. As soon as I heard the melody I thought of my father, who did so much to introduce me to the music of this, our favorite composer. The Spirit of God filled my eyes with tears as I felt my father so alive and present within my soul. My mother was there with him. Like on so many other sacred moments, I knew that they still lived in God’s arms, and were there waiting for me. On the day of that Mass, through the loving power of God, I was able to feel palpably the presence of the Communion of the Saints with all of us in that joyful church building.

    Yes, “ We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. “

    Amen! Thank You Jesus, for Your mercy. Through Your Passion and Resurrection, You have given us the hope of living in your Love forever!   

Orlando Hernandez

32nd Sunday C: Thinking About Death

Audio Homily here:

How do we want to die? I think we’ll be hearing that question more frequently after our current elections are over. “End of life” decisions are going to be part of the political agenda in the future. In our society we’ll be facing a range of questions about death and dying.. 

Let’s think about the term “end of life” first. If we listen to our first reading from the Book of Maccabees, the seven brothers who are put to death for defying their Greek conquerors and keeping their Jewish faith don’t see death as an end of life. “You are depriving us of this present life,” one of the brothers says, “but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”

The seven brothers see this life as given to them by God, who is master of life and death. Life doesn’t end. We are in God’s hands from the beginning. It’s for God to decide when we die, but God promises life beyond death. It’s for us to remain faithful as long as we live.

We hear in today’s gospel people denying that there’s life after death and trying to bait Jesus with what they think are absurd circumstances. Jesus tells the Sadducees  that life beyond this life is not the same as here on earth. A heavenly life is beyond what we can imagine.

So denying life beyond death isn’t new. Today we can hear the same denial of eternal life, the life that Jesus promises and shows us in his resurrection. One of the signs of that denial may be, I think, the increasing number of suicides, even among young people. We can see this life as our only life, and when circumstances become seemingly intolerable and seemingly hopeless, some unfortunately end their earthly lives. But we leave them to God’s mercy.

Today death often goes unmentioned. We don’t want to talk about it. We just want to think about life. But death is an important part of life.

There was a passage in a popular book some years ago by Carlos Castenada about an old Indian, Don Juan, and a young sophisticated scientist from the northeast, walking together in the desert in the southwest. The two are world’s apart in the way they think. 

As I recall it, the old Indian says to the young man, “Did you see the White Eagle circling over your shoulder?”

“ Yes, I see it,” the young man replies.

“That’s your death, keep an eye on it.”

“That’s a morbid thought,” the young man says, “We don’t think about that any more.”

“You should,” Don Juan says, “Keep an eye on your death. It will keep you from being small-minded.”

The young man’s describing the way a lot of people look at life today. We don’t want to think about death. We’re thinking more about extending life here on earth, through better diet, better heath care, better exercise;  we don’t like to think of a life ending in death.

But we should keep death in mind. Death is the door to another life. By ignoring it we can limit ourselves to a life too small, too self-centered, too brief. We need to see life as God sees it.   Life is not ended in death, it’s changed.

So death  is not something to be ignored; it is one of the two most important moments in life. That’s why we say in the Hail Mary. “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Friday Thoughts: A Major Mary

William-Adolphe Bouguereau Song of the Angels 1881

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Song of the Angels”, 1881 (detail)


 

…like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk

so that through it you may grow into salvation…

—1 Peter 2:2


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A woman’s worth is measured by the love she bears for the Child Jesus residing within the person nearest to her.

She is priceless who beholds Jesus in each and every child—who sees all humanity as a child.

For the Mother of God holds each and every human being as if each and every one of us is the Son of God.

May we all see that woman in our life.

And may we all encourage every woman we encounter to nurture this divine gift—a gift held within the immaculate core of each and every instance of Mary’s Immaculate Heart:

The dignity of being God’s beloved daughter.

———

Just yesterday morning, I saw such a woman in the bakery. She told me of her own mother’s recent death. She spoke so lovingly, so faithfully. Her face was aglow. I felt such joy, such happiness, such hope in the promise of eternal life.

She handed me a prayer card from the funeral parlor. And there atop the rear side of the card—on the corresponding back chamber of the image of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart gracing the front—I saw the face of a small delicate woman. A ninety-two-year-old beautiful little girl.

A recent photograph, I was told. And yet, it was ageless:

Holy Simplicity.

The Wisdom of God.

The “uneducated” schooled in the school of the divine.

———

She told me how blessed she was to be able to see her mother before she passed away. She traveled from New Jersey out to California to be with her. She said there was so much love, the presence of family, so much peace. The grace of a peaceful death. But then my friend showed a moment of remorse. She was not there at the exact moment of her mother’s death. She was already on a plane heading back to New Jersey when her dear mother departed for our one shared eternal home.

I thought of the Cross. The shape written in the sky. The plane speeding across a blue sea of crisp unpolluted air, leaving in its wake a white horizontal beam—while her mother’s soul ascends up toward heaven, slicing through her daughter’s path and adding to the celestial landscape—the vertical post of Christ’s Sacred Sign.

Life and death. Birth and rebirth. Time and eternity. The crisscrossing of two worlds, one temporary and fleeting, the other permanent and eternal.

The Kingdom is at hand, it begins right here, it resides within you and me—and if we have any doubt, all we need to do is stare a little more at Jesus stretched out upon the Cross—where we also find His beautiful, faithful mother standing by His blessed feet.

Faith and hope. Love and more love.

My friend’s remorse was short and fleeting. Together we raised our eyes back up toward Christ.

We let the Christ in each of us seek once more the face of the Father.

More peace and joy than even before. It seemed as if we’d both begin to sing. We hugged instead. A full chorus in heaven accompanied us.


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…I have stilled my soul…

Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.

—Psalm 131:2


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—Howard Hain

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All Saints

Years ago I wrote a book on the lives of the saints honored in our church calendar. Saints like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, the martyrs, founders of great religious orders, men and women recognized for their great holiness.

It was a hard book to write and I’ve never felt satisfied with it. My dissatisfaction isn’t just  from not capturing their lives as well as I would have liked. I think it’s because we can’t capture what the saints experience at all.

A saint is someone who enjoys a completed life, a life we haven’t seen yet, a life we hope for. “We feebly struggle while they in glory shine.” We can never capture the final steps of their story.

The letter of St. John we read today on the Feast of All Saints tells us that. We haven’t seen yet what God intends us to be. We haven’t completed our lives yet; we complete our lives when we join the company of the saints.

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us

that we may be called the children of God.

Yet so we are…

Beloved, we are God’s children now;

what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

The saints we honor in our calendar led extraordinary lives; they were shining examples of faith, hope and love and changed the world they lived in.  What’s interesting about today’s feast of All Saints is its promise that they’re not the only ones in heaven. There are unnumbered saints in God’s company, saints who lived obscurely, without any sign of the extraordinary.

People like us.

I like St. Bernard’s advice about saint-watching in today’s Office of Readings:

“We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory.”

Someone From The Dead

Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’“

The rich man in this parable is so absorbed in himself and his “good” life that he sees nothing else, not the poor man at his door nor his own inevitable death. Other parts of scripture, like Psalm 49, point to the same blindness: “In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed.”

The warning is not just for the rich, however. The same psalm calls for “people both high and low, rich and poor alike” to listen. A small store of talents and gifts can be just as absorbing and make us just as shortsighted as a great store of riches. Whether we have much or little, we have to see the poor at our gate.

We also have to see a life beyond this one as our destiny and what we do and how we live here will count there. There will be a judgment.

But Jesus‘ parable offers another reminder. God has given us a sign in his resurrection from the dead that we have been called to share in his risen life. A great gift has been given.  Like the sign of Jonah, some will not believe it, but Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, places this joyful mystery before us again.

May God give us grace to believe in it and accept its invitation.

(Thursday, 2nd week of Lent)

Holy Souls

Before the altar in our chapel in this month of the Holy Souls, there’s a large stack of names sent in to be remembered at Mass. Just names written on paper. No eulogies, no lengthy description of who they are, what they did, or anything else about them.

In one sense, they represent us poor mortals as we are in death. We have nothing, except hope in the mercy of God. We are in God’s hands.

We place the names of our dead before the altar and great crucifix that hangs over it because of  the promise of Jesus Christ:

“And this is the will of the one who sent me,

that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,

but that I should raise it on the last day.”

Our prayers at Mass say the same thing; we don’t earn eternal life, it is a gift to us. “All life, all holiness comes from you, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit.”

God blesses the bread and wine with the presence of his Son, and he blesses the world he loves so much.

“Remember those who have died in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith is known to you alone.”

Even though others forget, a merciful God remembers.