Ordinary 32nd Sunday – A BEND, NOT AN END
Ordinary 32nd Sunday
2Mac. 7: 1-2, 9-14 2Thess. 2: 16-3: 5 Lk. 20: 27-38
A BEND, NOT AN END
The quality of life before death determines the nature of life after death.
Life After Death
There was a king who wanted to have a right perception towards life. He consulted a wise man, who told him to think of death as often as possible and that would straighten his life. In order to remind himself of death often, the king thought of having a portrayal in his room. He called three famous painters of his kingdom and told them to draw a picture that would remind him of death. After a few weeks, all three painters came back. The first painter had drawn the picture of a matured fruit falling from a tree. The second painter had drawn a graveyard with pyre burning. The third painter’s picture was different. He had drawn a seed, being broken and a sapling coming out of it. The king chose the third painting.
This story communicates three messages: (a) Thinking of death now and then will help us to live our lives better. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To live better, we need death more than life itself.” (b) Death is not an end, but just a bend. There is something beyond it. D.L. Moody, a famous preacher, at the time of his death said, “I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born in the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh, will die; that which is born of the spirit will live forever.” (c) In order to bring something better out of us, we need to die to ourselves just as a seed has to die in order to pay way to a new plant.
The readings today positively affirm that there is life after death. Though in early Jewism, the notion of life after death was very vague and unclear, it began to take a shape towards the end of the 2nd century BC. The first reading informs us that Jews, during the time of Maccabeans, had the notion of life after death. That is why the fourth son said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him.”
Jesus, on more than one occasion, unequivocally affirmed that there is life after death. We see him often talking about ‘eternal life.’ “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt. 19: 29); The righteous will inherit eternal life” (Cfr. Mt. 25: 46); “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (Jn. 3: 16). In the gospel today, we see Jesus talking about the quality of life after death. The Zaduccess asked him a question about life after death, not to clear their doubt about it, but to make fun of Jesus. Jesus turns a seemingly negative situation into a positive opportunity. He not only talked about the resurrection, but also about the nature of resurrection and about the concept of God. The main argument of Jesus was that (a) Life should not be understood in a very narrow materialistic sense. It is more than that! and (b) God is the author of life, not the author of death.
Life Before Death
We need to understand that the quality of our life after death very much depends upon the quality of our life before death. In the second reading, St. Paul says that he prays for the Thessalonians that they may speak and do only what is good. There is no point in worrying about and speaking about life after death, since we do not have direct control over it. The only way we can have control over it is by focusing on the quality of our thinking patterns, actions and behaviours now. In fact, if we know how to die to the hardness of our heart, then we will bring the best out of us. For a qualitative life, we should learn to die each moment – to die to our ego, pride, selfishness, comfort-centred life, prejudices etc.. Jiddu Krishnamurty, a famous philosopher, said, “Death is always there watching, waiting. But the one who dies each day is beyond death.”
Using our freedom, we perform actions of different qualities – some mostly do the good and others do mostly the bad. Moreover we don’t mostly see the good being rewarded and the bad being punished. So it is legitimately assumed that there should be another life in which people receive rewards or punishment as per the life-style of the present life. The karma theory of Hinduism points out that the nature and the quality of this life determines the nature and the quality of the next birth. In Christianity, on the other hand, God is seen as a judge who would punish the wicked and reward the good.
There was a rich man who, after death, was standing at the Pearly Gate. St. Peter admitted him into heaven and was taking him through the streets of heaven. The rich man saw houses of different types – some very small, some very big, some well-furnished and others very simple. Peter showed him a house that was exceptionally well-furnished and told him that it was meant for his servant. The rich man thought that his house would be much bigger with more comforts. However Peter showed him a small hut. Noticing the rich man’s face becoming pale and sad, Peter said, “What to do? We build houses here with the materials you send while you are on earth.”