A lawyer named Strange died, and his friend asked the tombstone maker to inscribe on his tombstone, "Here lies Strange, an honest man, and a lawyer."

The inscriber insisted that such an inscription would be confusing, for passersby would tend to think that three men were buried under the stone. However he suggested an alternative:

He would inscribe, "Here lies a man who was both honest and a lawyer." That way, whenever anyone walked by the tombstone and read it, they would be certain to remark: "That's Strange!"

The fear of death can only be transcended by the strength of our faith. For a person who believes in a God who was raised from the dead, death has no meaning but life. St. Paul asked in his letter to the Corinthians where the sting of death lies and where the victory of the grave exists. No place answered that question than the empty tomb on Easter morning.

It is easier to believe, even in questions about death, when we feel that we belong, for it is when we belong that we learn how to trust. In an age where we find less privacy in our lives because of the cyberspace, it is ironical that we know nothing more about ourselves and something more about others.

The travels and trips we shall take this Thanksgiving, the journey to the place we call our home, the yearning in our hearts to nest and settle in places we find consolation and comfort are manifestations of our sense of belonging. It is in these places that we first learned how to trust, that our parents taught us to believe, that we will enduringly belong.

If all of us believe in life after death, if all of us believe that we belong to God, who is living and alive even we are dying and dead, then we need to become. Becoming is the ultimate point of believing and belonging. Something else should happen when we believe. Something else should come about whenever we belong.

The Sacraments are realities of our becoming. We become a new creation through the Sacrament of Baptism. We become new missionaries through Confirmation. We become anew through the Sacrament of Penance. We become what we eat, one body and one blood, through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We become one person through Matrimony, and those in Holy Orders become new agents for Christ upon their ordination. And we become one with the healing and forgiving ministry of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

This is also the time to be reminded about the Beatitudes, our ideal and guide. When we embrace the counter cultural call of the beatitudes, then we become.

In our world where happiness for the lowly, the pure of heart, the meek, the sorrowful, the merciful, the peacemakers and those who work for justice is seldom found, in the next world where there is no escape, blessedness inhabits, dwells and resides.

That is what the saints tell us. They also found it difficult to become the Beatitudes. They also found it hard to be merciful and peacemakers, to be poor in spirit and clean of heart. But, in their ordinary, perhaps humdrum life, they believed in God and in God they felt that they belonged.

All of us are called to be saints not only because we believe or because we belong. We are all called to be saints because we need to become who we are, as Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

How can we be perfect then? How can we be saints? Mother Teresa said it best when she shared that we are not expected to perform great deeds, only small things but with great love.

Love established who we are. It defined our belief. It led us to belong. And love, through ordinary actions, will help us become saints where we began as sinners, saints struggling like you and me, saints in the company of God forever.

That will never be strange.

1 November 2009

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