Duterte and sainthood

The first two days of November, i.e. 1 and 2, are the calendar dates when we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  It is the feast when Christians commemorate the Christian Saints in Heaven who pray and intercede for the living and for the latter to pray for the dearly departed.

In the local dialect, this commemoration takes on different names. In the Visayas, it’s called kalag-kalag, in parts of Luzon, its either undas or nangaluluwa.  But by whatever name, for Filipinos, this is the time for alms giving and praying for the dead, particularly for the suffering souls in purgatory. On this day, all roads lead to the cemetery where the living undertake different activities like sprucing up the graves of their beloved departed, pray for their souls, and attend mass for their intentions. It is also the time when relatives from faraway places go home to the provinces for some reunion. 

Beyond custom, these are days steep in religious significance. Thus, St. Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes is the Gospel reading on All Saints Day. In that Gospel, Jesus is telling us the precepts that  one must abide by in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, after all is said and done, we are bound to die and be judged for whatever things we have done in this lifetime. As the Biblical passage goes –  “Remember man that you are dust, and unto dust you will return.” 

As Christians, we believe that Christ, by his death and resurrection, has triumph over death; and man, for all his imperfections and sin, has been made the heir to  the Kingdom which he has prepared for us. Through Jesus Christ, eternal life has become our final destiny. That is why, we implore the aid of the Saints in Heaven and the souls in purgatory for then to intercede for us so that we, the living, could also attain our heavenly inheritance. In return, we pray for the souls who are suffering in purgatory to help them reach their heavenly reward. As Saint Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in him.”

It is often tragic that many persons comport themselves in this life as if it is the end all and be all of existence; always unmindful that earthly existence is but a passage, a pilgrimage of sort, or a passing journey towards eternity. After a short stint on earth, we die never to return. We are reminded in these holidays that human beings should always keep their sight on mortality; that we prepare for the time when we enters the afterlife and come face to face with God, our creator. Life is but a preparation for what is to come after death. Jesus died for our sins so that we can have life eternal. A wise person heeds the call of Jesus Christ to make the most rigorous preparation for death as if there is no tomorrow.

In another letter, this time to the Philippians, St. Paul tells us how to live out our salvation in terms that are sobering and startling. He said, “So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”

As for President Duterte’s making fun on Thursday of these holy days and especially the saints, it would be good for him to reflect on how Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus explains the communion of saints. In in 1 her Last Conversations, published in 1897, The Little Flower recalls:

“Sister Marie of the Eucharist wanted to light the candles for a procession; she had no matches; however, seeing the little lamp which was burning in front of the relics, she approached it. Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick. She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lighted those of the whole community. It was, therefore, the half-extinguished little lamp which had produced all these beautiful flames which, in their turn, could produce an infinity of others and even light the whole universe.

Nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light. How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?

It is the same with the Communion of Saints. Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to a hidden soul, for God wills that the saints communicate grace to each other through prayer with great love, with a love much greater than that of a family, and even the most perfect family on earth.

How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I’ve received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in heaven. Yes, a very little spark will be capable of giving birth to great lights in the Church, like the Doctors and Martyrs, who will undoubtedly be higher in heaven that the spark; but how could anyone think that their glory will not become his? In heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glances, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them.”

I pray that President Dutere will be given the grace of understanding this jewels of wisdom from Therese. He would understand why he is not a saint now and that there will never be a Santo Rodrigo and can never be one until he convert and be a force of good and not evil, a protector and not destroyer of life, a spark that brings us together and not tear us apart. Such conversion is a special intention I make in these holy days.

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