Luke 20:27-38, 32nd Sunday In Ordinary Time
A lot of prayers and thoughts these days go out to our dearly departed, having just celebrated All Saints’ and All Souls’. And since we’re also nearing the end of the liturgical year (Yes, only two Sundays left, before Advent helps us to begin again!) a lot of the mass readings will begin to turn apocalyptic, pointing us to reflect on the end that awaits us all. So allow me a few thoughts on resurrections, the ultimate end for which we hope.
Has it ever happened to you, brothers and sisters, that in very difficult, dark moments of your lives, you were somehow made to feel the reassuring presence of a loved one who had already passed on?
I wouldn’t say this has happened to me a lot, but surely more than a couple of times in my life. The times I remember most are usually when I’m on retreat, and gloom sets in, or when my demons come knocking, or when I get really scared of the future. It is then somehow that I am made to reassuringly feel the love of family members watching over me from above.
As a child I would get these nightmares, like I was being swallowed-up by a cosmic kind of darkness. And sometimes, even to my adult self, such a fear still returns, though in lesser degrees. But sometimes, when this fear comes, what amazingly also returns is the memory of my late father, and how as a kid, he would let me sleep beside him when such nightmares came, and he would hold my hand, so reassuringly. And its like his hand was more powerful than that cosmic darkness. Because it gave me peace and security and sleep. Sometimes, when I’m on retreat, God makes me feel Dad’s hand again, holding mine, especially when I need to feel it the most.
Sometimes, also, it’s my late grandfather, Lolo Cardo, who would come to me in dreams. He would be smiling down upon me from above, literally. And oh, that smile – the same one that gave us all his grandchildren the unmistakable feeling of being loved. And what joy and what freedom from my anxieties I would feel upon waking.
If you have your own such stories, I’d like to ask you to hold on to them today and pray with them, because such experiences have a lot to teach us of our faith.
Whether or not you believe it is really them or their “souls” that come to help us in our dreams or prayers, or whether you think this is just our consciousness playing self-preserving tricks on us, it doesn’t matter. Because the fact is, on both counts, there is something of these loved ones whom we have lost that remains. There is something of them that continues to live in us and in the world. Call it their love, call it their souls, call it their identity, call it that part of them which we hope is in heaven – there is that which remains, that which is not lost forever.
Now, what of the “resurrection on the last day”? What do we believe will happen? Of course, no one knows for sure. But what I sometimes imagine is that God will gather and raise up all that remains, and all that is worth redeeming, and will make of these remnants, someone that is whole again.
I imagine that God loves us so tremendously much that he wants us to be able to fully partake of the fullness of His glorified life. And he will raise and make us more whole than we ever were before because the fullness of our partaking will only be possible if we are whole, and not just remnants of our selves or that fragment we call our soul.
Our ultimate end is to be whole again, whole in ways we could never achieve by ourselves, but whole in as perfect a way as can be, because it will be God, and not just ourselves putting us all back together again. It will be God raising us, not our own wills or our merits.
The seven brothers and their mother in today’s first reading, found the faith in the resurrection to be something worth dying for. I will pray that for us today, we may find in the resurrection, all that is worth living for.
And what can this mean? In our mortal lives, this can mean that we can strive to be the best we can be, especially in the things that matter to God. That way, we can give him as much of our selves to put back into our resurrected whole.
Think about it, friends. The remnants of our dearly departed that live most in us and that continue to linger in the world, have little to do with fame or riches or power – the things that we so often get caught up with. So why bother so much with these distractions, when we know first hand that it is love, and goodness that makes the real difference?
Unfortunately, we know too well that what also endures, is the hurt we can cause to one another. We know how selfishness and greed can eat up our interiority and lead us to do stupid, hurtful things, both to people we love and to people we do not care enough for. Think about a betrayal you may have experienced in your life. Or worse, think of the experience of abuse. Who can deny such lasting effects these have on us? These too endure, dear friends. So beware of what remnants we leave behind by the acts we do to others.
Thank goodness, though, that to believe in a God who is good, is to believe that all those horrible parts of ourselves will no longer be brought back to life in the end (Sorry folks, no Zombie apocalypse for this loving God).
If we believe that the resurrection is the final, ultimate way we will be in union with our God who is Love-in-the-fullness, then we can believe that only those remnants of ourselves which are compatible with such a love shall be gathered and be given a glorified body.
Woe to the one then, who does not love much – he gives little for God to resurrect in the end. And blessed are those who are generous in their loving and serving. Their remnants are many in the hearts of those whose lives and persons they have touched. And they shall have the glorified bodies of giants for all the good they have done the world.