November 07, 2010
In this age of technology, we cannot run away from television – and definitely, not from the advertisements and commercials. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the stark contrast between rich countries and the poor ones as revealed in the TV commercials. For instance, in the Philippines, the great majority of advertisements are on food products. This is closely followed by household and beauty products, then medicines, cars, real estate and the least seen are insurance and securities. This order is reversed in rich countries. Most of the advertisements in countries like the United States are on insurance and securities, followed by real estate and cars, but the least on food products.
This shows that the people in rich countries barely think about food and other basic things in life for they already have all these in superabundance. Rather, they are mainly concerned about the future, their retirement, and the security of their investments. Indeed, material sufficiency naturally leads people to trust more in purely human powers and resources rather than in God. Hence, despite a life of abundance and excess, they live in anxiety and fear.
On the other hand, the main concern of the people in poor countries is food – how to survive from day-to-day. Insurance and investments are far from their minds. The obvious reason is lack of money. But the more important reason has something to do with faith. Poor people have no investments and insurance policies. So, they rely more on God. And this gives them some sense of security and peace, even in the midst of life’s adversities and hard realities. Jesus taught us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3).
There is the story about three insurance agents who tried to convince a prospective buyer. The first one, an atheist, said: “Buy my insurance, for its coverage is from basket to casket.” But the Hindu salesman is more persuasive: “That’s nothing! My insurance will cover you from womb to tomb!” Not to be outdone, the third insurance guy, a devout Catholic, offered the widest coverage: “Take mine. It’s from conception to resurrection!”
As Christians, we have the unbeatable insurance policy ever – and with free premium at that! From the very start of our life, at the moment of conception, we are already in the hands of a loving God. He protects and guides us throughout our life in this world and even through the dark valley of death until the resurrection of our bodies into eternal life. I am not saying that we do away with prudence and totally disregard the wisdom of preparing for the future. However, in the ultimate analysis, it is only God who is our sure refuge and security for the future. Psalm 118 says: “Better to take refuge in the Lord than to put one’s trust in mortals; Better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
The resurrection is the unmistakable proof and guarantee of this divine insurance. Even before Jesus Christ came, the Jews already believe in the resurrection. This is expressed in the Book of Maccabees. But this is not true for all Jews, unfortunately. The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. They claim that this is not found in the Torah, the books of Moses, which they solely believe in. They tried to ridicule the belief in the resurrection by posing to Jesus a question based on a hypothetical case of a woman marrying seven brothers.
In his answer, Jesus emphasized two points. First, there is absolutely no comparison between life in this age with the age to come. The children of the resurrection do not die anymore, and they live like angels. It is pointless to ask the question as to who will be the husband of the woman in the next life. Since there is no more death, the natural end of marriage, which is procreation, serves no more purpose. In the presence of the glory of God, and enjoying perfect joy, the people in heaven need not concern themselves anymore with worldly matters such marriage, family and jobs. They live like angels.
Second, God is a God of the living, and not of the dead. And as God’s children, we are called to share in that divine life. He did not create and save us just to vanish into absolute extinction. As Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). Eternal life is our destiny. Our bodies are limited, and we all die. But life continues after death in a more perfect and pure state.
We are truly blessed to have received the gift of faith that tells us there is resurrection. We profess this truth at Mass: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” This is the most central element of our faith. As St. Paul said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1Cor 15:13-14). The resurrection proves we have the true faith.
Moreover, on a practical note, belief in the resurrection is the key to true happiness and peace. A rich tourist visited a well-known wise man. When he entered his house, he was surprised to find it almost empty, save for a table, a chair and bed. “Where is your furniture?” he asked. “Where is yours?” replied the wise man. The tourist was puzzled: “What do you mean? I cannot be carrying my furniture with me. I am a tourist. I am just passing through.” The wise man answered, “So am I.”
Many people nowadays are consumed by too much egoism and materialism. Their desire for this world’s goods is insatiable. They already have, and yet they yearn for more, and so they become unhappy. Belief in the resurrection reminds us that as God’s children, we do not belong to this world, but are only passing through. And so it is pointless to store and hold on to the ephemeral things of this world. The resurrection, then, is the best antidote to materialism and the key to true freedom and perfect happiness.
Life in this world is never easy. It is always full of trials and sufferings. But thank God, we are not permanent residents here. We are just passing through. The realization of this truth makes our pains and sufferings, and even death, not only bearable but also meaningful. St. Paul said, “I consider the sufferings of this present time as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18). We may not fully know and understand what is in store for us, for we are talking about “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). However, as what the Apostle St. John pointed out, “What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is” (1Jn 3:2). Then our joy will be complete!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002