Who do you remember on All Souls Day?

All Souls Day

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

October 30, 2011

 

Knowing where the most visited place by her family, a dying mother told her children: “When I die, I would like my body cremated, and have my ashes scattered all over the mall.” When asked why, she answered: “In that way, I will be assured that you will remember me and visit me once in a while.”

Today is a day for remembering, and for those who can, this is a day for visiting the resting place of our departed loved ones.

What do you remember when All Souls day come or any day for that matter? Have you had a chance to light a candle or offer a flower at your loved ones grave? Have you said a prayer of thanks for all the things they have shared to you while they were living?

What and who do you remember on all souls day?

I remember going to the cemetery a week before All Souls Day to weed out the grass covering the graveyard of my father and brother. My brothers and I repaint the tomb and
reprint their names in bold black ink while my sisters and mom plant flowers around the grave. At the end of the day, I would look around the rest of the tomb in the cemetery, I noticed that there are foods offered like: sinuman, adobo at lechon; Believe me, there were pasta. I didn’t find any vegetables. I guess most foods were associated with the cause of their death. There were drinks to like:  Ginebra, San Miguel beer, and Marlboro pack at the head of the grave. Someone told me the next day that those foods, drinks and cigarettes were gone. They must have been consumed by the spirits of the dead or the living?

It reminded me of what was told that in some other culture, like those among the tribes of Ghana. There is a belief that a man lives after death. This is clearly demonstrated by tying some money to the cloth of the dead person or in a handkerchief and placed in the coffin beside the person. The money is believed to assist the dead to buy water on its way to the land beyond or to pay the ferryman at a river which divides this world from that of the dead.

I continued to wonder why others would bury their loved ones with gun and bullets next to their dead body.  Is it to defend them against the angels of hell?

I said to myself, ah, whatever it is that they do, let me sit down with my family and
share the good memories we had with our father and other members of the family
who passed away and reflect upon life and how we support each other while we have it. Offer thanksgiving to God for giving us hope of the resurrection and His love that carries us through in this life.

You may have the same experience. Some of you remember the wonderful time you had with your child who brought joy and love to your life. For whatever reasons, that child
had to be taken away from you to be with the next level of life, there where one day you will be reunited with them. You yearn for their bodily presence, to hear their laughter, to see them run, to touch again those little hands.

Some of you remember your mother or father or guardian, who shed light to who you are now. Who sacrificed everything just so you can reach your dreams. Remember when they made you laugh? When they bought you the most expensive dress or clothes you have been praying to wear? You found out later that she bought it at Ross. Remember when your mom reminded you to always wear socks without a hole on them just in case an accident happens and you won’t be embarrassed? Do you remember when they were there with you at the ball game? It hurts now that they aren’t there to cheer, to offer a hug, or to look us straight in the eyes and tell us, “You’re doing the right thing” Their death leaves a hole in our hearts.

What about your best friend who suffered the painful experience of Cancer? Or a friend so young who had a car accident that led to death? All of these my friends will lead us to pause for a moment to reflect that life is fragile and precious and that we do not own it. It can be taken away from us any moment. Death reminds us that we are mortal and we cannot escape the sting of death. But thanks be to God through His Son Jesus Christ who came to save us from our human sinfulness and once again restored us to an everlasting life with God. For God so loved us so much that he sent His only Son to save us and inherit eternal life. Death is no longer the end of everything for after death is life with God where there will be no more pain, neither sighing but life everlasting. The Love of God bought us all to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.

It is therefore that same love that we light a candle and offer a flower at the grave of our love ones. For love is why we came here in the first place. We reflect upon the love these wonderful people shared while they were living. We never cease to remember until that time comes when we meet our maker and finally meet our love ones once again. Then there my friends our love will be complete. It is there that life we have been promised is
fulfilled.

All Souls Day is a timely reminder for all of us that, sooner or later, we all will die. Yes, the journey will come to an end someday. Just when, is not for us to say. What matters is, not the miles behind, nor the wealth in our hands, but the love and the peace we carry in our hearts.

For those who are so focused on image, it would be good for you to reflect today on what will people say about you after you die? For those who are surrounded by cheer leaders, entertainers and jesters, remember, too, that your   so-called staff and entourage will not be there for you once your power and money are gone. The bottom line is: What will God tell you when you finally come face-to-face with Him? For those of you who are unhappy with life because of gossips and arrogance, life is so short, turn around and embrace happiness by doing good deeds with yourself and your neighbor.

In our earthly journey we encounter all sorts of people. Some are sinners. Some are saints. Many of us are not big-time sinners and definitely not saints. What should keep us humble and hopeful is the thought that there is no sinner without a future, and that there is no sinner without a past. All Souls Day should remind us that we have a soul. All Saints Day should remind us that we are all called to holiness, and that we all are potential saints.

Some storms exit fast. Some storms linger on. One thing sure is, storms end. Another thing that’s sure, too: Whatever kind of life you are living, it will end. Enjoy life now, or invest in eternity, which is waiting. It’s your call. It’s your choice.

Let me end with a lyrics of All Souls Hymn written by Canon Jagger:

“We light a tender candle as fragile as a friend,

A flame against the darkness, a love without end;

And pray his resurrection, unquenchable will blaze,

Sustaining human frailty, in Love’s eternal gaze.”

Amen.

Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself

(Matthew 22:34-46)

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

October 23, 2011

 

 Let me test your knowledge on the commandments of God. Do you
remember how many commandments God gave to Moses?   Did somebody say Ten?   Well that is the number of commandments that
were carved on the stone tablets.  Are there any other guess? There were actually 613 commandments given to the people of Israel.  In all 613 commandments, 248 were positive commandments, “Thou shall” and 365 negative, “Thou shall not”.  That is a lot of commandments to keep track
of isn’t it!!!

 In today’s Gospel, we learn that the Pharisees could not just let
Jesus go. Jesus is a pain in their neck. They just couldn’t find any reasons to
convict him of any ground for blasphemy and treason.

 In Chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew verses 34, a lawyer asked
Jesus, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment?” there were a lot
to chose from.   The lawyer was testing Jesus to see if he knew the correct answer.  And he did.  Jesus answered him like other great teachers of the faith had always done.  He said: “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the
greatest commandment.”  And then he added,   “And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Why do you think Jesus said that these were the greatest commandments?  It is because Jesus knew
that if we could keep these two commandments, we would not have any trouble keeping the others. If we love God with all our being, all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we won’t have any trouble keeping all the other commandments – and most specially we will not have a problem with the big 10 – the ones that include things like “Do not steal,” or “Do not murder” or “do not covet or
desire the things you neighbor has”.

 Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate with his answers. Knowing
that the Pharisees were referring to the Shema of which every Jew knew by
heart. Jesus quoted the Old Testament Law in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” In other words, you shall love God totally with all your being. And in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” That is, you shall love your neighbor totally as you love yourself.


Everything that Jesus said, not only in the Law but also in the Prophets, turns on this hinge of ‘You shall love.” These words of Jesus put all 613 little
rules and codes and norms of our lives and church into perspective. If what
Jesus says is correct- that above all we are to love totally, both God and our
neighbor-then everything else is secondary.

There is no question about loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds. A person can easily say, “I love God no matter what. I will always praise Him, exalt his name, receive him as my personal Lord and Savior and believe will see him in the resurrection of my life.” But Jesus did not end there. He didn’t say that is the only greatest commandment. He said, “And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these hang all the laws and the prophets.” You see, while we may love God with all our minds, hearts and souls, it very important and is a requirement that we also love each other otherwise we have not loved God at all. In short, Jesus is saying, “Behold, the old is gone and the new has come.” He made things simple for us. While it is easy to the former and seems difficult to do the latter, Jesus is telling us that there is nothing impossible with God. Our inward love of ourselves becomes an outward grace when we share them to our neighbors. It has to be a flowing river of love. You cannot keep it to yourself alone, it has to be shared, then and there we have loved God just as we love our neighbors and ourserlves.

Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to feel good about ourselves. By loving ourselves, we display respect to our outer and inner being. Everything has to begin from ourselves for how can you respect and love others if you do not know how to respect and love yourself.  It is this
parts of the commandment that human struggle with. While we may have areas where we need to improve, it is important that we keep pressing forward, getting up each morning and doing our very best to assure our love with God. He may not be pleased with every decision we make, but he is pleased with us. He wants us to be secure and have healthy self-images by not focusing on our faults and weaknesses. Sometimes when we make mistakes, we become so extremely critical of ourselves and live with the nagging feeling that blames. God knows we are not perfect, He knows our weaknesses, faults and wrong desires and He still loves us! He only wants us to recognize that and be ready to repent and sin no more.

One of the worst things you could do is to go through life being against yourself. This is a major problem today. Many people have a war going on inside themselves. They don’t really like who they are. “Well, I’m slow, undisciplined, not smart as other people are.” People focus on their weaknesses, not realizing that this negative feeling is a root cause of many of their difficulties. They can’t get along in relationships, they’re insecure, they don’t enjoy their lives and it’s largely because they’re not at peace with who they are.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Notice, the prerequisite to loving others is to love yourself. If you don’t have a healthy respect for who you are, and if you don’t learn to accept yourself, faults and all, you will never be able to properly love other people.

You can’t give away what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you’re not going to be able to love others. But if you recognize that God is working on you, and in spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you can learn to accept
yourself. Then you can give that love away and have healthy relationship.

When you make mistakes, simply go to God and say, “Father, I’m sorry, I repent. Help me to do better next time.” Then let it go. Don’t beat yourself up for two weeks or months. Shake it off and move on. Turn around you and say to your neighbor, “I love you with the love of the Lord and keep those smile shining.”