1ST READING - Acts 4:8-12
8 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: “Leaders of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, 10 then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. 11 He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
P S A L M - Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
R: The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (R) 21 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior. 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. (R) 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. 28 I give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his kindness endures forever. (R)
2ND READING - 1 John 3:1-2
1 Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.
11 Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. 13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS
In my more than 30 years as a priest, I have ministered to terminally ill patients, some of whom were close to me. Though hovering close to dying, they lived life to the full, and everything legit that earthly life could offer. Despite being ravaged and debilitated by a cruel disease, they always showed their joie de vivre, as only people of faith knew how.
A number of them had very clear requests, as they planned carefully for the day that most people would not even hear of. But people of faith are also people of hope. They love as much as they believe and, precisely on account of their faith and charity, nurture every remaining moment of their short lives on earth with the hope of everlasting life.
My elder sister was one such woman of hope. In her dying days, she asked us not to cry or be sad. She requested us not to take pictures of her as she lay on her deathbed. But she did ask us to pray with her, to pray by ourselves when she could no longer join us, and while still in her lucid moments, she remained for all of us, her younger siblings, the epitome of an excited child, looking forward to going home to the Father.
I have been blessed by this and many other similar scenarios of loving, faithful and hopeful individuals proclaiming in life — as in their death — the powerful words of John: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”
Just two days before Christmas 2013, I witnessed another enviable death of a former student. Tired, sleepy and weary of one Simbang Gabi Mass too many, I was told that he was dying. I didn’t plan to go as the hospital was far from where I was, but I eventually went. And I was glad I did, as I was once again blessed by a faith experience. He taught me in his beautiful death what it means to declare in faith: “We shall see him as he is!” Fr. Chito Dimaranan, SDB
REFLECTION QUESTION: Imagine that you are on your deathbed. Listen to your feelings and thoughts. What dominates them — joy or fear?
I long to see Your face, Lord, not just when my life is over but right here, right now.
St. Pedro de San Jose Betancur, pray for us.
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