Blessed
(The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2015 - 10:00am

These are days we flock to the cemeteries to visit our dear departed. We go there trusting (i.e. knowing without seeing) that they are “somewhere” safe, undiminished, very much alive and well. We visit the grave believing that the tomb is like a portal of sorts, our connection to another dimension we have yet to enter.

All Saints and All Souls are days hallowed by our remembrance of those we have loved and those who have loved us. We celebrate these days, trusting that love is true and lasting, that it is more than just an evanescent memory. We pray for them as we ask them to pray for us, believing that our mutual prayers do matter in making us more loving and less lonely.

These are days when we see with more than just our eyes. We even harbor ghost stories to confirm our notion that there is always something more than what meets the eye. This third eye is a wonder, even if it seems trained to see mostly ghosts that give us the goose bumps. Ghost stories are “lima singko,” while angel stories are so few and far between. How can this third eye be so selective? Why is it more compelling to believe the dark and macabre? Even those who are known to have seen angelic stuff are thought to be so exceptional some of them are called saints.

This feast of All Saints is a good time to have our third eye (i.e. the lens of our faith) examined. An appropriate eye exam would have us read what is going on inside us as we behold the sight of candles and tombs, people gathering and telling stories, the prayers rising like vapors from the earth. What do we see when we see the letters that form the names of those who’ve gone before us? What do we see when we see the end?

More importantly, as we gaze at the different reminders of death or mortality around us, what do we see to be true life? When we remember life’s turbulence and uncertainty, what do we see to be true peace? When we are confronted with our own radical dependence and poverty, what do we hold to be our true wealth? As we take in the many sights of sorrow or bereavement, where do we go to find true happiness?

Makarios is the Greek word that begins each beatitude in the Gospel today. The word is a blend of “happy” and “fortunate,” and the closest we can get to its meaning is “blessed.” As these beatitudes are given on a mountain, the Gospel writer, Matthew, seems keen on tracing a line of continuity from Moses to Jesus.

Only this time, these hardly sound like commandments engraved in stone. Even the addressee of the beatitudes is in the indirect third person (“blessed are they…”) rather than in the second person “you” that is being directed in the Ten Commandments. Static commands can be fulfilled mechanically with minimal energy and love on our part. It is also quite possible to fulfill the commandments without ever being truly happy and fortunate. There may be a line of continuity between the commandments and the beatitudes, but these blessings are of a different order of depth and magnitude altogether.

The beatitudes are God’s vision of true happiness and real fortune. Jesus saw this vision, embodied it in his very life, and shared it with us. He saw what makes for true life, true peace, true wealth, and true happiness. Read these beatitudes again with new eyes and you will understand Christ and his way of relating with us. Read them again and you just might fall for Christ and those for whom he fell. Pray over the beatitudes not as commandments imposed on slaves but as blessings bestowed upon friends who are invited to love more deeply with their very lives.

As we take leave of our beloved departed once more, and before we lose the spirit of these November days when we are asked to see with more than just our eyes, let us find time to dwell not so much on the blessings (i.e. the happinesses and fortunes) we have received as on the blessings we are and can be for others.

God bless you.

ACIRC ALL SAINTS ALL SAINTS AND ALL SOULS BEATITUDES COMMANDMENTS DAYS EYE MAKARIOS SEE TEN COMMANDMENTS TRUE
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