June 19, 2018, 8:11 pm
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Our hope after earthly life

ON the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.

Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

***

Long before the coming of the Catholic Christian faith, our pre-colonial ancestors already believed in the life after death. The manunggol jar that was unearthed in the early 1960s in Lipuun Point, Palawan, is a piece of evidence to this claim. This belief is supported by our salita from the different ethnolinguistic groups in our archipelago such as Kaladua, hadadua, kararuwa, kiyarulwa, kag, kalag, and kaluluwa. All of these refer to the concept of life after death. Scholars also strongly agree that the meanings of these words have particular nuances from one ethnolinguistic group to another. Nevertheless, this issue brings us to the conclusion that belief in life after death is not foreign to our fore-parents’ worldview and practices.

When the Catholic Christian faith came to our shores, these diverging concepts, particularly on life after death, converged into one. It was deepened, intensified, and became full of hope. Jesus Christ became their point of convergence. He introduced the reality of life after death through his own resurrection story, answering our ancestors’-as well as our own-haka-haka, takot, and pangamba on what life after death may bring.

Our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ brings us to attend to this truth, that as a community of believers we will not die. Instead, we will resurrect and live forever with him. This is evident when Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54). Here, Jesus gives us a brighter hope after our death. Because of this great announcement, we are no longer kaluluwas who simply go to the place of the dead, dwell in some mountains or rivers, or aimlessly paddle and roam around in the afterlife. With Jesus, we have a clear destination, that is, to be with him.

This is one of the many greatest values of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. In the celebration, we do not simply remember Christ in his words and deeds. We also slowly enter into a communion with him, which provides us with the hope of what is to come after our earthly life.

This particular event is a “sacred space and moment” because we are provided, in the “here and now,” with an opportunity to be able to partake in his promise of eternal life, long for his presence, and direct our ways towards his dwelling place. The Eucharist, then, is not simply a ritual, nor is it a social performance. It is, foremost, a sacred event, a gift of space and moment, that brings us to experience the forgiving Jesus in the “here and now” and the saving Jesus in the “not yet” life after death.

Hence, the Eucharistic celebration reminds us of the immense power brought about by the Body and Blood of Christ. With it, salvation is totoo. Eternal life becomes makatotohanan. The assurance of his love and mercy in the “here and now” is more makatotoo.To forego our “very important personal schedules” in lieu of our participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is not a waste of time at all. It is, in fact, more valuable than our other important concerns here on earth, for they are all temporary, while receiving the Body and Blood of Christ directs us to do good and assures us of life everlasting.

***

– Fr. Ross P. Heruela, SVD
– (June 3, 2018)
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