Thursday, February 25, 2010

We are on our way home ... but not yet

Second Sunday of Lent Year C

There was a missionary priest who after having spent 20 years in Africa returns to his hometown. He had sent letters ahead of his return to old friends hoping to meet up with some of them. So, it came as a great disappointment when he arrived at the bus terminal of his little hometown to find no one waiting for him. As he began to walk to the parish church, he was puzzled to see a great crowd of people gathered around a big Mercedes Benz parked across the road. Some of the young girls were screaming in excitement. After inquiring with a passerby, he discovered that his hometown had another homecoming, it was Mrs. Lim’s son who had gone to Hong Kong and became a famous singer.

As he sat down on a bench in the park, the priest began to complain to God. “I’ve slogged for you these past 20 years, I’ve risked my life attending to the sick, I’ve given up everything to follow your call to Africa. And now that I’ve arrived “home,” is this repayment that I get? There was silence on the other side. Then God spoke: “Who ever told you were “home.”

What does it mean to be really home – to have really arrived at our final destination? Is this life all there is to it or is there something more? From young, we have been taught in catechism that our final destination is heaven, where we will be with God for ever. But over the years, we may have developed some doubts as to heaven’s existence or we may begin to doubt that we will be able to enjoy this beautiful paradise.

We must never deceive ourselves into thinking that this world is a permanent place, we must never deceive ourselves to think that we can prolong life without death. This life is good but it isn’t our final home. Today many people do not want to talk about death, they do not want to think about death. Its’ ‘pantang.’ We try ways and means to lengthen our lives – we acquire wealth, property, power – forgetting that we can never bring any of these things into the next life. The three disciples who followed Jesus up the mountain wanted to capture the event of Jesus’ transfiguration for eternity – they wanted to build tents for all of them. But Jesus refuses to allow them to remain at this level. The transfiguration points to Jesus’ resurrection and the glory of heaven, but it wasn’t the resurrection nor heaven. If Jesus had remained on the mountain he would be prevented from fulfilling his mission to bring about mankind’s salvation through his suffering, death and resurrection.

Similarly if we put our confidence only in the present life as if it was permanent, we would not be able to appreciate and receive the eternal life promised to each us. And the meaning of ‘eternal life’ is to know God, to love him and be with him for all eternity. God doesn’t promise any of us a long life but God promises us eternal life.

This understanding of eternal life will help us to understand that heaven isn’t a place. The movies and paintings give us a very wrong picture about heaven – its above the clouds, people are given wings, everyone is dressed in white. We really do not know how heaven looks like. What we can say about heaven is that we will be able to see God face to face, we will able to face him in all honesty without having to hide behind our fears and anxieties. In heaven, our eyes, our attention can only be on God alone because he is the fulfillment of our every hope, dream and desire.

We pray during today’s mass that we will be able to let go of our earthly securities, e.g. our riches, our health, our property, our power, and be like Abraham who was prepared to leave everything even in the time of his old age and follow God’s call.

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