THOSE WHO SLEEP SHALL AWAKE
Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
33rd Sunday of the Year(B)
November 15, 2009
We are at the second to the last Sunday of this liturgical year. We are bordering on the ending of a year of the Church. Endings connote many things, including the idea of wrapping up events in the course of a journey, a process, a life trajectory. Endings entail at times having to rush things, so as to put a final note to a course of events, giving final touches to a paper due in school, wrapping up a lifetime project, perhaps, to top off a list of glowing achievements in the course of one’s life. Endings are represented by a period, a full stop.
The liturgy today does speak, too, of endings, but not in the senses enumerated above. Endings are really beginnings, if we go by what the readings today tell us. In the Bible, the end-times are really not so much the end of an era, as the beginning of a new one, one that is represented by a language that follows a style all its own, known as apocalyptic language, which portrays, pictures and symbolizes, more than it foretells.
The Book of Daniel belongs to such a category of writings. In symbolic, but not abstruse terms, Daniel portrays the beginning of new life – thus alluding to the resurrection of the dead: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
Today’s reflection is a logical follow-up and enrichment of last two week’s commemoration of all souls. Death, we said, for the Christian is not sad, but a happy ending-beginning of life as it was originally planned for and willed by God – immortal and unending, like His own, created as we are in His image and likeness. Death, we were reminded, does not end life but changes it, because Jesus went ahead of us and showed us the way: “In him, who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality” (Preface of Christian Death I).
There is need for us to look at things from a different perspective. We are generally caught up in the rush and in the drive to complete things, and to top off everything we do with a sense of finality. We look at time as limited and as something that has to end at some point that we feel compelled always to do all we can to leave a mark in society, to achieve something, to make our lives meaningful, and to make a dent in the world of finite men and women.
We often forget to look at the bigger picture. We often miss the reality that life is one single continuum, and that, whilst it has a beginning, we are really called by God to live forever. We often miss the forest for a few trees. We focus so much on what is concrete here and now, and forget that there is a bigger world out there, a bigger reality that is awaiting us in the “next” life. Christ in today’s gospel passage, using the same apocalyptic style of speaking, reminds us to focus a little more on what awaits us. And what indeed awaits us, is portrayed through an image of a solicitous and caring God who gathers together His “elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” This is not the language of fear, but the language of solicitous love from a God who continually reminds us to work more for what really matters and not for what simply glitters. On that great and glorious day, those who sleep shall awake.