PASSING THINGS: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND COMPANIONS
There are many things we value so much, yet, the life-span of those things are very temporal. Today, we will reflect on three of those. The first is our life. We often hold onto our lives, and we will do anyting to stay alive. In the life of the Vietnamese martyrs that we celebrate today, we see a people, who did not hold onto their own lives. they knew that life in this world is passing, and life in heaven is eternal. Therefore, they chose eternal life rather than this passing life. They were happy to die in order to bring the gospel to the people of Vietnam.
The second thing we often hold onto is our reputation. We want people to think well of us and to have us in their good books. We do not want to offend anybody. We want to be accepted by others. However, we can be in a situation where we have to choose between being accepted by the world and being accepted by God. In our first reading, a prophesy is given about the prophet who has performed all kinds of mirracles for the good of the people, yet they do not appreciate him. They end up bringing him to a very shameful death. Even his death is celebrated by the people of the world. How will you feel if people have rejected you so much that your death brings them relief? Such is the prophet who have lived a life of truth and spread the message of truth. Such prophets will not have many fans. If you live by God’s command, you will not be the most popular person in this world, and your funeral will not be attended by a great crowd. Yet, on the last day, you will rise to a glorious resurrection. At that time, it will be the turn of your enemies to watch and see you go up to heaven. The desire for heaven should be greater than the desire for fame and popularity in this world.
The third thing we all consider very important is relationships. We want to be special in the life of someone else. We all desire intimacy and the highest of human intimacy is found in a marital union between a man and a woman. Appart from wanting a relationship that is very initimate, we also want a relationship that will last forever. It is very easy for young people who fall in love to promise each other a love that will endure forever and they might even imagine that after their deaths, the love will still continue in heaven. In a particular movie I watched, when the girl’s boyfrien was killed, she decided to kill herself too, so that she can be with him. In our gospel, the sadducees met Jesus and put a very ridiculous, but valid question to Him. If a woman marries a man and the man dies shortily into the marriage, and the woman remarries and the same thing happens until she had married seven brothers, whose wife will she be after this life. Jesus teaches them, and He teaches us that our relationships on earth is also passing. If you have a wife in this world, when both of you get to heaven, your relationship will not be that of a husband and a wife, but that of fellow children of God. This is why the marriage vow indicates that the marriage expires upon death. There are cases of young women whose husbands have died and they could not remarry, because it felt like cheating on their husbands. There is nothing like that. If they refuse to marry, it should be for other reasons. After this life, you will still recognise your brothers, sisters, friends, spouse, children, etc. but the relationship will not be the same as it was in this life. You will still love them, but as fellow children of God. God becomes the basis of the relationship, not personal sentiments.
There are no factions in heaven. You will not be more fond of your own family and friends than others. Christ will be all in all and it will be more about Christ than anybody else. So, let us not hold too tightly to our earthly relationships and sentiments. This life is passing away and all the things we experience in this life are passing things. My life on earth is a passing thing. My reputation on earth is a passing thing and my earthly relationships are also passing things. But God is eternal. The only thing that is not passing away is God. This is why whatever does not draw us closer to God, directly or indirectly, is not good for us. In the end, only our relationship with God determines every other thing. Without a good relationship with God, no other relationship will make sense.