April 13, 2005, 9:09 a.m.

The Last Things

Every Lent, we are reminded of our particular deaths, and consequently what is really important in life. It is often said that only in death do we appreciate the people around us, and then remember the good things about the deceased. The Filipino culture (or any culture which treasures family, including the extended type) prepares the folks on the last things. We are happy when a new life is conceived, happy when a child is born, happy in the thick and thin of life, and also happy when we see grandpa or grandma die a peaceful death. We all see these things, sometimes happening in the hospital and sometimes at home, and the place of death, for example becomes some kind of a "shrine" for the deceased. Memorabilia are common and death is generally not seen as bad. The last pope demonstrated to the whole world the process of dying, the gradual weakening of the body when all kinds of maladies come. It is very prudent therefore to think of our own deaths. The reality of terrorism and violence in the streets desecrates this respect we have for each person, and the lives of all the victims seem cheap in the perpetrators' eyes. But I still believe in justice; these evil people (terrorists and their cohorts in different sizes and shapes) will have their time in judgement. (This is one proof of the reality of the afterlife; if they get away with murder here on earth, they won't escape the "real" justice later.) I may digress here but I support any legislation that gives more teeth to the law-enforces everywhere.

We should remember that death has been overcome by our Lord on the cross and it is in this reality that we place our hope now and in the future. I now lift from St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15): "...the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is in the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (vv 52-57)."

While we become sad when someone we love dies, we rejoice that a new door has been opened for them especially if the Lord's hope remains in them (this is the reason why we pray for all people even the dead). This very mysterious phase of life, the twilight zone will only become clear when we actually make the crossing from this to the next life.

I now lift from Revelation 21 to fittingly end this: "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (vv 3-4)."