TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
By Experiencing the Naked Sword our Heads will be Venerable
First Reading (Jer 20:7-9) : Jeremiah could not resist to speak in God's name.
Second Reading (Rom 12:1-2) : Be a pleasing sacrifice to God
Gospel (Mt 16:21-27) : First prediction of the passion and resurrection the need to carry
-“All are past and gone; For truly great men, Look to this age alone.” (1)
-“The Great River eastward flows, With its waves are gone all those gallant heroes of bygone years.” (2)
-“Only by experiencing the bayonet of the naked sword will our head be venerable, To be buried in
Huang Hua, my bones would give a fragrant scent.” (3)
Then Jesus began to say to his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ( Mt16:24-26 )
Life has a beginning and an end; the most important thing is to return to the beginning and find what links it all together.
Many people discuss what can and cannot be achieved by wealth. For example, money can buy cosmetics but not youth; it can purchase a comfortable bed but not the sweetness of sleep; it can buy marriage but not love, a large house but not a close-knit family. Money can buy one many fair-weather friends but not close ones, nor a life-long a long life or intimate friendship.
In a person's life there are ends and means to an end. The end may be youthful vigor, the means is the masquerade, sleep and love are ends, the comfortable bed and marriage are means.
Friendship and a warm family are ends, the casual friends and the size of the room are not that important.
‘What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?’ It is said that when one of the saints heard these words he immediately gave up all this world’s possessions and wealth and followed Jesus by entering a monastery.
Life ends in no time. Even though this life is very real and very lovely, it is very short. In the discussion of the great men in history, a contemporary poet wrote: ‘Whether it were Emperor Chin, Emperor Han Wu, Emperor Tang Zhong, Emperor Song Zu or the world famous Genghis Khan, “All are past and gone; For truly great men, Look to this age alone.”(1) This is a chivalrous poem. It said that all the great men in history were dead. Today, the only ones who can take the helm and steer the course of history are you and me.’
However, no matter how emotional the poet was when he wrote these words, when we read them today we cannot help but feel that the poet was one of those who were “All are past and gone.”
Su Shi had another saying, “”The Great River eastward flows, With its waves are gone all those gallant heroes of bygone years.” (2) No matter who or what these heroes were, all were washed away by the great waves of times.
Once when I returned to Tai O where I was born I went down to the shore to look at the vast sea and the high mountains. Over the years the sea and the mountains had seen many joys and tragedies, welcomes and departures, young and old people, all different people and events. All were passed and gone, what still remain are the mountains and the seas. If you have an opportunity to visit a graveyard you will see that whether kings or generals, thieves or other, all have turned to ashes and are pitiful.
Yes, life passes by very quickly. How we live that life, what valuable record we leave behind, will cause us when we look back to be happy, ashamed or regretful - that is what is important.
This couplet was inscribed at Huang Hua Gang: “Only by experiencing the bayonet of the naked sword will our head be venerable, To be buried in Huang Hua, my bones would give a fragrant scent.”(3) If we lived meaningfully, living for our ideals and for our country and people, if we had to be beheaded by a sharp sword, this head would be worthy of honor and commendation. If we were to die for the revolution and could be buried in Huang Hua Gang, these bones would give out a fragrant scent.
People once asked me, ‘Father if when you are eighty years old, you find out that there is no God or no eternal life, will you regret finally that for eighty years you have believed and offered yourself to God?
At that moment, I answered without a doubt, “I would have no regrets.”
Because faith-life in itself, or more concretely, my life of faith has been a rich, active, meaningful, beautiful life. Compared to many others, my life has been richer and brighter. If there were no God or after-life, it would make no difference. It would not do away with eighty years of a full life. I still would have had gratuitously eighty years of beautiful life. I have no regrets.
Even more so, when life's journey comes to an end, I know eternal life awaits me. And with the Apostle St Paul I can say, “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness.” (1 Tim 4: 7-8)
Numerous saints have told us that when we follow Jesus we will encounter difficulties, we will meet the cross. But if we relinquish self and follow Jesus in carrying the cross even to losing our lives, we will instead save our life, a fuller and eternal life.
O Lord Jesus, help me to understand what we mean by life. In this temporary life which we live only once, teach us how to live it this once and how to live it well.