Life in the Face of Death

November 2, 2014 at 5:56 am

7 Camels.  20 Swami’s dressed in black carrying bundles of clothes on their heads, 3 burros, 3 wandering cows and a handful of beggars.  All part of a 30 minute drive forth and back from church this morning on All Soul’s Day.

The Church in India faithfully observes many of the devotions of the Church.  On All Soul’s Day, rosaries and masses are celebrated at the Catholic cemeteries in remembrance of those who have gone before us.  The Mass this morning included a long list of  departed family members for whom we prayed that God’s perpetual light might shine upon them.

Fr Pakieraj SJ shared many insights that emphasized how an understanding and awareness of our mortality can sharpen our experience of life.  We will live more fully and purposefully.  He mentioned with a smile visiting a local cemetery on All Souls Day that has an archway over the entrance that says:  Today for Them Tomorrow for You.

He also described  the mourning and grieving that he sees there including a spouse crying as she threw flowers on her husband’s grave.  How much better, he suggested, that we express such affection to our family members before they depart this life.   At the end of Mass, he sent us home with a homework assignment to sit with each other and quietly appreciate the other and the gift of our lives to one another.

He also mentioned the Jesuit spiritual exercise from the time of Ignatius where you use your imagination as you  lie down and imagine yourself as dead.  First, you lose the power to use your limbs, then hearing, sight, smell and taste disappear.  Your heart stops.  Then after 15 or 30 minutes, you wake up and are restored asking the Lord:  “  How will I use my life for you?  How will I use my lips, my tongue, my eyes, my feet for you?”

He also told the story of a woman recently hung in Iran for murdering a man who she said attempted to “violate her modesty.”  After enduring 7 years of jail and  trials in the court system, she wrote a note to her mother asking her to beg the courts to donate anonymously all of her organs to those in need.  A Muslim, she also wrote her mother that the judge, the attorney, the false witnesses would all be held accountable on that day that they appear before the Lord as she and  her mother would stand together in her innocence.

He used that story as a platform to emphasize our Christian belief that one day  like the Muslim woman and her mother we will all be together with Jesus and our loved ones in the afterlife.  In the meantime, he prayed that we might have a fantastic journey with Jesus in this life.

He also mentioned the Buddhist emphasis on the temporary nature of our existence; but he said, our life on earth is like blowing out a candle that lights the night but is no longer needed as the dawn of everlasting life with God breaks.  Death is no more than blowing out a candle that we no longer need in the Bright Light of our birth into heaven.

Let us remember in prayer our departed loved ones and heroes  this day who held candles for us to illuminate our lives and show us the way. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, priests, nuns, teachers, good friends.