The End

Antonio P. Pueyo
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Reproduced with Permission

We are nearing the end of the liturgical calendar which will be capped by the feast of Christ the King, two Sundays from now. Logically enough, these last three Sundays remind us of The End. When we were in first year high school taking up catechism classes, one of the questions was, “What are the four last things?” And we would recite: death, judgment, heaven or hell. As one wit said, there are two things that are certain, death and taxes.

Just a few days ago, we were reminded of the reality of death when we celebrated the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. In the Philippines, many of us “communed with the dead” by eating, playing, praying, and even sleeping over the tombs of our dear ones. These celebrations became occasions for family reunions, the dead included. We mourn our dead. We celebrate life. We affirm life through our meeting and feasting. We also know that death is a sword of Damocles that could drop over our heads anytime.

This Sunday, the gospel reading speaks about readiness. Jesus told the parable of the maidens, five of whom were foolish and five were wise. According to cultural practices at that time, they were assigned to meet the bridegroom and light his path. The foolish ones did not bring oil for their lamps. The wise ones did. Only the sensible ones were able to fulfill their duty when the bridegroom finally arrived. They were ready with their lamps. The p arable nicely ended with the moral of the story, “So, stay awake, for you do not know the day or the hour.” (Mt. 25:13)

What are we to be ready for? Certainly, we have to be ready for death, it could come anytime. We have to be ready to meet the Author of Life when the time comes. Some meet death willingly enough, others “rage at the dying of the light”. No matter how we keep it at bay, there is no denying it, death eventually comes.

Action Starter: Are you finding your life meaningful?

Paradoxically, our readiness to face life daily, is what also makes us ready to face death. It is when we live life in its fullness (Jn. 10:10) that we are most ready to meet the Bridegroom. Once a priest asked his catechism class, “How does one go to heaven?” A little girl raised her hand and said, “One has to die.”

The girl answered correctly. Death is the gateway to Life. Living life in its fullness is really dying every day. This was how Jesus lived His life, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn. 12:24). There are some basic things that make life fuller such as a decent living, friends and loved ones, a work that one loves doing, and the knowledge that one’s life serves. There are even occasions when one has to rise above the usual and the ordinary. There are higher values than merely living a comfortable life. That is why we have heroes, martyrs, and saints among us. These are people who have literally died so that others may live.

When I was rector of the seminary, I would sometimes be called during medical emergencies. Blood was needed. With sixty seminarians , there was no lack of volunteers. I guess we have saved some lives this way. I know my students acted out of a sense of heroism – not just because of the free beer and the substantial meal for the blood donors.

Life in its fullness does not mean “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” It is not like Cinderella squeezing every bit of enjoyment and partying before the clock strikes twelve. Living is dying everday. Then comes, the End.

But the end, is just the Beginning.