SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 7:25-31; LUKE 6:20-26  ]

In the olden days, most people believed that there was a tomorrow after death.  As a result, they lived a good life, knowing that there would be retribution in the next life.  So many of our forefathers lived in view of the fullness of life promised to them.  They lived with the great hope that the sufferings in this life cannot be compared to the life hereafter.  They waited for the “inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for them. (1 Pt 1:4)  This was the same attitude of the early Christians in the first reading.  St Paul reminded them, “I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.”   This attitude is true even of non-Christians.  Although they might not believe in the resurrection of the dead, most would believe a certain continuity of life and the doctrine of karma, what you sow is what you reap.

But in the modern generation, the thought of tomorrow and of life after death seems to be something too far-fetched or too remote even to think of.  Like the Corinthians, we are all so engrossed with this life, busy doing many things besides enjoying ourselves, that we hardly spare a thought for tomorrow.  Furthermore, with a longer life span and finitude of life masked by cosmetics and aesthetic surgery, we delude ourselves into thinking that we are still young and can live for many more years.  Indeed, if we honestly examine ourselves, most of us, even believers in Christ, live as if there is no tomorrow.  The fact that our faith in life after death does not affect the decisions as to how we live today, shows that it is just an idea, not a conviction.  At most, we might worry only when we are sick or facing the possibility of death.

What is the cause?  It springs from a loss of the sense of the Sacred and faith in God.  Through science and technology and in an age of information, many people no longer turn to God to solve their problems.  They think so highly of themselves, that they can manage on their own and solve all the problems of the world.  This has led to materialism and individualism.  Being absorbed by the world, God becomes more and more distant from their lives.  Left to themselves, without understanding that life is much deeper and richer when we live on the transcendental level, they sink to living merely a sensual life.  The more they live this kind of life, the emptier they become.  In truth, for those who live such a life, especially when they have become successful and have all the material things they need and want, they are often restlessness and lonely.  They know that something is missing in their life, which they experience as a deep vacuum.  Unfortunately, many do not realize that it is their spirit seeking for God.  This is what the Lord warns us of today, “But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.  Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way the ancestors treated the false prophets.”

In the gospel, when Jesus presented the Blessed Life to His disciples, He was precisely speaking about what fullness of life entails.  It means to live in a spirit of poverty, knowing that happiness in life is to live simply and be freed from the worldly concerns of life. When we live with detachment and are grateful for what we have, we will always be happy because we are not a prisoner of anyone.  We are called to live in love for the truth.  Even when we are rejected and hated because of our Christian belief, we should be at peace.  Truth and love will prevail at the end; if not in this life, it will be so in the next life.  It is this confidence of the final liberation that made many Christians give their life for their faith and devote themselves to the service of God and the Church as hermits, monks, religious and priests.  Many more spend their whole life in service to the poor and needy.

St Paul in the first reading lived with such a vivid hope for the fullness of life in the future.  In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”  (Phil 1:21-24)  Again in the second letter of Peter, St Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (1 Pt 3:9)

St Paul saw the urgency of preparing ourselves for the next life.  Within this context, he advised the Christians that in whatever they did, they had to focus their eyes on the Lord. Accordingly “those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it.”  He was not saying that we cannot marry, or enjoy life here and now, but that we must bear in mind that because “the world as we know it is passing away.” We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are here forever.  Hence, it is important that we live our lives in perspective.

Living for the future does not mean that we do not live in the present.  Rather, the present is lived even more fully because of the future.  Realizing what is ahead of us, we will not take the things of this life too seriously.  They are means by which we are called to love and grow in grace.  Realizing that the future is a life lived with God in love, then this life must already be a foretaste here and now.  “Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation.”  (1 Pt 3:14f)

What actually makes us happy today is not whether we have much food, a beautiful house, a great career or fame, but whether we are making a difference in the life of our fellowmen.  Only when we live in such a way that is contributive to Church, society and country, can we be happy with ourselves and be at peace.  Knowing that we can bring much joy to those who are suffering, food to those who are without, shelter to those who have none, relief and cure to those who are sick, work to those who are without jobs, reconciliation to those who are alienated from their loved ones, peace to those who are troubled in their conscience, forgiveness to those who condemn themselves, and all the good works we can think of, will make us more human and fulfilled. That is why, as we weep with them, identifying ourselves with them in their poverty and their sickness and suffering, we learn to feel with them.  In reaching out to them, they will draw out the goodness that is latent in our hearts.  By so doing, we will find a joy that the world cannot give. “How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.  Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.”