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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chapter 4 - The Homily

Chapter 4
The Homily

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it off; it is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.  For every one will be salted with fire.  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it; have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

          “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ,” responded the mammoth church goers collectively after Driarco kissed the Oxford Annotated Bible Revised Standard Version reading the gospel of St. Mark Chapter 9:42-50. Dropping it back gently on the rostrum, he cleared his throat uttering in silence of his heart ‘Lord give me Thine voice to speak Thine ear to listen and Thine mind to grasp your mystery’. Bracing himself to an exciting and didactic homily he probed:
                 “What’s your take on the gospel just read?” Fr. Driarco asked setting the tone of his homily his right fingers bashing repeatedly the rostrum like playing piano. The silence was deafening the church goers this time caught  on the receivers’ end waiting words of wisdom from the homilist to live by.
                “Astounded gripped by terror catching you in fear and trembling! Not gospel at all. Where’s the good news there anyway if we’re as good as living dead worms feasting while being roasted by unquenchable fire there in hell,” if I may ventured saying  breaking their deafening silence.
                “Most likely, disoriented too realizing the horrifying graphics St. Mark in his gospel is showing to us.”
                “How is that again– you thrown into the sea with great millstone in your neck. . .  hands and foot cut off, eyes plucked out from their sockets, worm feasting dead bodies before thrown  into the hell roasted by unquenchable fire!” he narrated back to drive home his message.
                 “Atrocious. Better live than dead,” you might say.
                 “And you must be, of course. But hold on. That as far as our little general understanding we have about death is concerned,” he said raising his left hand.
                 “Truth of the matter to tell like my dear father now in casket whom we are paying our last respect, we too would follow him dead anyway when our time comes. It’s just a matter of time. Any of us in a hurry here? Not for now maybe your plea and rightly so. Maybe because of your own unfinished business you still have to accomplish whatever that means.”
                 “But what if Grim Reaper would make you part of his harvest right here, right now?” he said  his voice gradually becoming resonant.
                 “Again no problem, well taken.”
                 “Rightly so because we are all God’s children that we long to be with Him living in perfect bliss and contentment forever. Why not?”
                 “Temporal or physical death. Yes, why not. And in fact we don’t have any business living in this world if we are afraid to die.  It’s because just like the military, death their bridesmaid, we would also pass away. We are all travelers in this world. The bottom line is time,” he paused for the moment  allowing his message sink  deeper into the consciousness of  listeners.
                 “Yes sure, it’s just the question of time. Fine coming naturally and bad when out of the blue shrouded yet in mystery!” he emphasized.
                 “Spiritual death – that’s a no-no to us professing Christian. St. Paul says it all: death where is your sting and death where is your victory? That’s precisely how our early apostles thought of death. Ergo, my dear faithful sojourners beware that which may kill compromising your soul. Never mind our mortal body. It is heavy baggage pulling us back. Let it stay degenerate as fertilizers of mother earth from whose bosom we were taken.  Christ already died for us and raise us up when He resurrected. And what is this far dangerous second death? St. John in his Revelation 2:11  identified this as final condemnation of sinners to be thrown to  the lake of fire.”
                 “Now the crucial question is – are you listed in the book of life?” Another silence.
                 “Okay let’s open different pages of our life back right now and ask: What’s up and where  are you now. Is your name listed in the book of life? Hello there?” he re-echoed again wanting to have his message ringing  a bell capturing the interest of his listeners.
                 “You personally can answer that but of course with the imprimatur of God because He’s all-knowing. If not then . . . .”
                 “Don’t fret, you still have time. Look yourself in the mirror and know who you  really are. But that is subjective. So scrape off the silver lining at the back of that mirror and let people saw you through who really you are. If you’re not what they think you are. Who you think you are then? It’s time for reality check as God through St. Mark might have already  reserve  a place for you to   that lake of fire. . . !”
                 “But sorry we are not that old to die Father, you might bargain,” he said slowly emphasizing each words.
                 “Yes of course. But please be informed that death like a thief in the night strike when we least expect his visit. No problem dying our natural death. What a comforting development dying naturally. But not in a blue? Right” he begged the question repeating what has been delivered earlier never mind as long the people got the point.
                 Holding on catching his breath, he proceeded.
                 ”The reverse really holds true. No way when death comes out of the blue. One that is suspect shrouded in mystery yet! One given to you by circumstance snuffing out that lights out  from you through force whatever beyond human comprehension,” he said carried by the effect of his discovery but holding back to keep its confidentiality from the mourning public.
                 “Reveal too soon and crusade for peace would also be dead,” his subconscious took him back.    
                 “Too early pricking their conscience yet,” he cautioned.
                  “To succeed one thing is only needed – that is, allowing whatever action you have concocted stay only in your own mind. No one can bug  that conspiracy in there, the result will be even carried all the way to your grave,” the reflection recovering his consciousness and focusing back where he earlier left off.
                 “I’m sorry, it seems I’ve gone too far my take on the second implication,” he rectified himself avoiding any suspicion.
                 “Now I wonder if you have your own epithet, words of wisdom your life is identified with  you might later embossed in your tombstone, ” he uttered switching back to non combative stance.
                 “I think some of you do have and nice to know if it reflects all there is bout you.”
                 “But as Christian and travelling in this one journey called life, I think we could relate to this epithet in gravestone in Indiana Cemetery, America.”
                 “Stop stranger when you pass me by. As you are now so once was I.                  As I am now so you will be.  So prepare to die and follow me.”
                 The placard in five languages in a crypt of the three skeletons further tells it all: “What you are now, we used to be, what we are now, you will be!”
                 “But who cares when we would all experience that crossover in our lives anyway.”
                 “Where we go therefore is what counts. How a jogger edited that epithet is obviously the answer and in order here.”
                 “To follow you I’ll never be content until I know which way you went!” the homilist revealed.
                  “Hello there!  Again what’s your take on the epithet just read. Normal and unperturbed, you’ll probably say. No question about this as we’re all passing mortal. Just hanging on,” you might add.
                 “We are practicing Christian, I hope so. Death therefore is welcome development to each one of us. That what truly separates us from the rest. We all know of course that only one person was given that license conquering and living again after death, Christ our Master no less,”  the homilist emphasized his index finger pointing upward.
                  “Buddhist on the other hand goes beyond the concept death what with soul travelling up there in Upper Chamber.  They believe that an old self merely takes a new form of body through reincarnation. Cows and even earthworm in the case of Dalai Lama’s preaching could be their ancestors; hence, sacred. “
                 “Science of many decades too stirred and fanned controversy when a laboratory in US opened for business guaranteeing at least another century of immortality for human body.  But the catch is, it’s only your head that could have semblance of life as it is planted to an entirely different new younger body. Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, were among the early birds clients. But science playing God? No way.  In movie yes but not in real life.  Wandering soul guarding its frozen head science caused us  to believe century after is sick joke bordering on stupidity.
                 “This free will proves again to be the most powerful gift God gives us. It’s either you live a Christian life keeping all the way the faith practicing it for good until the race is won or you may opt living as you wish enjoying life to the fullest as read in this dictum among materialists: “Life is but once. Enjoy it while it lasts!”
                  “That I think depends on where you  stand and what institution you’re representing because if you do you are entirely missing the mark. The truth of the matter is life is a continuum. We have to die to live again to earn  the promise of eternal life God gives us. You’re right, happiness is right here. But you’re dead wrong because that happiness is temporal, passing contentment which doesn’t last. True happiness is up there, one that is forever outlasting all bliss you get and enjoying here.”
                 “Songs too among romantics lusting for life provide exciting nuances of  death. “Dust in the wind. Everything is dust in the wind. Same old song, nothing last forever but earth, sky and endless sea.  All we do tumble to the ground though we refuse to see.   Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in wind. All we are is dust in the wind,” well said by this song. “There’s also an old Elton John’s “Daniel” leaving that night on a plane heading towards Spain waving him goodbye but through grief actually mere cloud in the sky’ or of Acosta’s “Don’t Fade Away” telling story of a father who just passed away considered a friend so dear. “Oh My Papa” everybody’s   all-time favorite.  How would you not miss him when you were left without a trace back then when you’re barely gullible two years old boy.  Victim of cold-blooded murder when his close friend yet pumped him nine bullets felling his body. No question asked until today save for that opportunity when time comes seeing and meeting him face to face or soul to soul to what could be the grandest reunion of all time up there.” 
                 “Nothing in this world is really permanent, nothing except death and taxes  And of course for the uninitiated and those who have not yet been  party  to this kind of experience – family still intact -  a little bit reserved and restless. It’s both scary and ugly when we relate it to different images we witnessed, seen and heard. Who would not feel sick. The sight alone of  casket and different faces inside send shiver down our spine. Add the incense emitting perfumed vapor, burning candles, offensive odor of thawed flowers and all that provide not only an eerie environment but also an extremely appalling and  sometimes griping feeling of deep fear and trembling.  My nine years stay in the Seminary bringing me to as far as Taipei to Kaohsiung  in Taiwan have shown it all just how authentic reality of death has been.”
                 “So any takers?  Resounding ‘No!’ and ‘Not for now’ is definitely your categorical reply.  Naturally so as you are probably still held captive by the fear of death. Denial, argued by eschatologist is actually just one stage of psychology of death. Bargaining and later, acceptance follow.  In both cases, we’re given time to think, rethink and prepare. Those who wait for the11th hour dies at 10:30, familiar sticker reminds.  Life has no spare, live it with prayer, advises another dictum. Ergo, death is not only real, it is also didactic imbuing us greater sense of understanding the immediacy of time, giving us benefits of doubts on how to manage and use time. When it would finally an opportunity to go, would secure us from the anxiety accompanying the realization of impending death.  Calvinists before Industrial Revolution just exactly did that.  Associating acquisitiveness as requirement in entering heaven, members pooled together their resources which soon led to Capitalism. Martin Weber had graphic account on that phenomenon in his historic       “Protestant  Ethics and the Rise of Capitalism.”
                  “Actually, we can’t just philosophize death theologians would say.  Why?  Life is a continuum as indicated. We are all experiencing death everyday  as little part of our life is taken from us. We get sick, grow old and soon would perish. That time when we cease to breath is simply a cessation of breath,  that life goes on with death as special growth taking place. Unless the grain of wheat shall fall on the ground and dies, it shall remain a single wheat and not give life,” the wisdom of a Jesuit song ‘Behold The Wood of the Cross’ reminds us.
                 “Well said and explainable. And similarly for those whose death were forcibly handed  unto them – accidents, calamity and all that – simply amazing you might exclaimed. It might be scary alright. But that’s all in life.”
                 “But it is also  beautiful once it happens in its natural way not that one  taken away unceremoniously  and mercilessly  out of the blue snuffing away dear life given by God the likes of cold blooded murder, massacre, terrorism  and inhuman barbaric acts defying description.”
                 “Perceptions of death undoubtedly vary. Among Atheists and skeptics, death is nothing other than immaterial and irrelevant.  The more and the longer you qualify its reality, the faster you explain the issue away.  More than the doubting Thomas, they don’t give damn come what may. Worst, terrorists’ neurotic claim as far as they are concerned are infallibly correct,  they become martyr and enter nirvana and have eternal bliss later is suspect and stranger than fiction.”
                 “Romanticists and Apologetics have so far the most sublime explanation they have on death. Poets, musicians, storyteller, theologians and eschatologists have all exploited to the tilt the true nature of death beyond its usual medical occurrence.  The most common is its inevitability.”
                 “Bible tells us, it strikes like a thief in the night without any warning yet coming when you least expect it.  Surprise and very swift attack, you might say.”
                 And as written “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return,” explains further by an Oxford Annotated Bible in Gen. 3:19 showing man‘s struggle after The Fall to eke out his living from the same soil he was taken to which he will also return.
                 “That last bated breath in fact a dying reserves holding on as his last he could muster before he gives in  the old testament sense is the same breath Yahweh made unto us coming alive from that dust in which the dying is returning back. What a respect returning back the compliment to God who breath unto us life.”
                 “Thus far, death was already there from the dawn of creation.  Like Yin-Yang theory, death is inseparable from life.  Nothing in this world is sure than death and taxes, goes again from an earlier reminder.  Encarta in its entry about the nature, debate and psychology of death is even more emphatic providing some classic examples..  There’s the ”Death of a Merchant” and the story of Achilles’ tragic end from an arrow Paris unleashed mortally wounded his heel resulting  his death.”
                 “As inevitable, it is also great leveler striking all excluding none regardless of race, color, creed and persuasion.  It’s one institution if I may; whose relevance far outweighs all the rest there is including human life itself.  The fact remains that life is only best appreciated when related to death. Celebration of life in the real sense of the word is what  actually death  is.  Like a door, it closes upon its  maturity   but opening the other as fulfillment of entirely new life.  Living, dying and living again – these are life’s inseparable whole gamut of human existence.”
                 “Explainable. The crucial question is: Quo Vadis my soul? Would it end in Upper super de lux chamber where there is perfect bliss and happiness living alongside all other blessed equally sharing all there is in life with  contentment.  Or will it end in the Lower Orchestra where Satan and his fallen angels would have their day full welcoming you to their fold with open heart – your most coveted prize for having successfully separated from God. If not, then don’t fret yet.  There is still balcony available for  as long as you first suffer until purified.  Check out then where you stand now.  Have you ever keep the faith and hold on to your covenant when you say proudly ’I Do’ to your wife back then?  Are you not suffering identity and messiah complex?”
                 “Hearing this good news might by your last otherwise Welcome aboard!  No matter how great your sins are practically peanuts compare to the love of God. Come  follow Him, the Bible reminds us. Or as far as you can make it, make yourself living gospel yourself.”

. . . . . . . . . .

                 Undoubtedly, it was such a beautiful treatise on the subject, reason that probably many are bracing for more. That as Driarco observed with all the mourners have their eyes focused on him.
                  “By now, it should be clear in us that death is actually a celebration of life,” he cleared pricking the conscience of the suspects and their accomplices  who might be around showing  their sympathy.
                 “So did everybody get the message of St. Mark’s right?”he asked postulating  anew his application and clincher of the gospel.
                 If you do, I believe you are left dumbfounded stunned wondering what in the world our good friend St. Mark implies with his didactic message for today specifically, the warnings of hell,”      Fr. Driarco intoned in a vibrant baritone voice  anew staring in a spur of a moment to the Mayor and his men occupying front pew.
                 “If your hearing is still functioning John Mark, Peter’s disciple according to tradition, explains in a rather hurting description the suffering one gets in hell, - worms feasting on our dead bodies giving us great favor making our day through Jesus’ extended commandment and simile. It’s indeed hurting alright. Even just by hearing it is already biting and incisive. Think of being roasted alive in hell! Common, who do you think You are? Seems You are not the God I used to know. The God of love who has been there providing the necessary lift for me, you might ask. Am I disoriented?” he’s provocative probing on the good news just read.
                 “But first thing first. Let’s put  his message in its proper perspective,” the young priest cleared.
                 “The annotations below the book says it all the ‘little ones’ referring to His followers and ‘have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another’ in the end implies peaceful maintenance of your own distinct character and service. Now guess and I’ll beat if you get what he means ‘whoever’,” he emphasized pausing for a moment to gather his thoughts.
“That’s crucial. It’s you and me everybody else in this church in this municipality specially those causing His little ones to sin. Reflect, thank God and St. Mark. He might be addressing this message to you,” Fr. Driarco emphasized pointing his fingers gradually  down lowering the tone of his voice staring eye to eye some to his parishioners pausing longer on the Mayor’s.
                  “My golly this priest might be thinking that he could soften my heart with his sermon,” the Mayor might have uttered thinking for the first time of staging a walkout from the church. But it seems, he felt helpless as he was in a fix. No other alternative but just to sit in there enjoying pretending listening.
                 “Admit it. We’re all His followers each one would rightly claim. Good grief. As already articulated, I would rather advise yourself  to check who you are in the mirror. You’re right, you’re you as far as the reflection of the mirror is concerned. You might even claim you’re above yourself probably a king, a demigod because you’ve got His image and likeness and goodness in you. But wait. Let’s have reality check here. Try scrapping off the silver lining behind the mirror and allow the people, ‘the little ones’, see us through. If they see you what you were earlier before, good; but if they see you completely a reverse of your own reflection earlier then bingo! It’s the time to refute St. Mark’s gospel you being thrown into the depth of the sea with great millstone yet hanging by your neck, hands and foot cut off and worst, an eyeball plucked out from their sockets. It’s better, he said to enter into life or His Kingdom, if you wish, incomplete without such vital organs than be whole and only salted by unquenchable fire in hell. Again, St. Mark is addressing his message to us.  He was by the way one of the gospel writer who wrote what he witnessed Jesus from his own perspective. In fact, St. Matthew and Luke along with collection of Jesus and several other special sources based their Gospels from St. Mark. But you might not still be satisfied asking. Where’s the good tidings there in Mark’s shared by St. Paul in his twenty one letters; acts of the apostles, records of Church’s history written roughly thirty years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus and last; God’s disclosure of his will for the future in the book of Revelation in a nutshell forming the entire New testament. Yes. You’re absolutely right. St. Mark happens to be dishing out halfway his message. The other dimension is the simile read in the end.”
                 ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. In layman’s term, be a peacemaker. How could you be one? By being a crusader of peace yourself. In fact, we don’t have to be religious to do the job. Just be yourself and let peace start within. We need not to be like Scribes and Pharisees bragging around  showing their belief instead living and practicing it ourselves or we suffer identify crisis. Let us not use religion in other words as crutch to use when times comes but by becoming living gospel ourselves.”
                 “This time I hope we didn’t get our good friend St. Mark wrong. Remember, no matter how great your sins are could be mere peanuts compare to the greatness of God’s love. True, the hell is there too frightening but the message of love St. Mark preaches and the rest of His disciples later far outweigh its ugly heads. We should not allow closing our guards then or  complacency and devil might overwhelm us,” he continues.
                 “That we should remember. I’m sure one or two among you is advised by St. Mark. Acknowledge it, he is doing great favor and as he said don’t allow the little ones to sin, the innocent people  you exploited as an accomplices in maintaining whatever business you’ve got as power broker in this world. Come to think of it. You’ve still got the choice - heaven or hell. You’re opting the first I’m sure. But show by being a peacemaker and crusader in this municipality,” Fr. Driarco ended wondering whether the silence of the people indicated that he received a passing mark for his homily.
                 “The mayor’s sensitivity should be pricked. He might not complain today but time would come when he would run out of gas and realizes that it’s payback time,” he quipped as he slightly glanced passing the Mayor and his wife Nimfa on his side on the front pew.
              The Mayor’s breathing become regular anew after Fr. Driarco completed his message and left the rostrum vowing not to make any slightest  mistake occupying the front pew again next time.
. . . . . . . . . .

                 “The poor priest’s sermon is making me sick,” confided to Baldo, his sidekick  by his side.
                 “What unassuming good father he is,” he said griping.
                 “How could I afford surrendering my promising political career to them. That’s political suicide!” he grumbled  whispering  Bobo’s ear.
                 “The hell of this priest. He’ll have his day full few days from now,” Bobo  heard the Mayor impending threat. This he heard said while holy communion was in progress.
                “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ” said Fr. Driarco to communicants who received the sacred host one after the other. When the Mayor’s turn came, Driarco immediately abandoned his previous plan of depriving the Mayor of giving sacred host extending instead one to his palm as if saying ‘you don’t deserve eating His body.’ You’re making hell out of innocent people of this municipality. Forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing, the echo however at the  back of his mind seems to be reminding him. But they did know, his subconscious complains creating two polarized idea pricking constantly his brain. Lord make me a channel of your peace where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon Lord where there is doubt trust in you…,” he whispered before sending away the mass goers with his final blessing.
                 “One day, peace will be yours Sta. Rita,” he challenged himself  finding solace from his awakening  the incident gave.
. . . . . . . . . .

                 “Just as how holy your name implies, peace would eventually be yours Sta. Rita. When? Time can  tell,” reminded Driarco as he rise up from his usual visit of   Tabernacle after the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
                 The rest of Sundays were spent briefing newly installed  parish lay ministers of their services securing that all the chapel in faraway villages are reached and served. Vespers  evening normally close the activity of the day. Dropping to his bed after saying a prayer, he took his needed rest. Unlike however the previous nights, he felt light that evening probably having unloaded his thoughts and emotions receiving corresponding enlightenment from his initiative and inquisitiveness.
                 Soon, he snored his thoughts carrying him back away in time down the memory lane surprisingly priesthood striking as most likely vocation to be pursued not knowing that his batch was top heavy of vocations sending many of his classmates taking Theology in other Colleges and Congregation. Amazing indeed that God works in many mysterious ways. But among his batch mates, many receiving calling from the Lord’s vineyard.

. . . . . . . . . . .

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