Luke 9, 7-9: Vanities
The book of Ecclesiastes declares all things are vanity, thus it makes us think about what is eternal and worth dying for. If everything passes, what then is stable? When we take saints’ lives seriously especially martyrs like St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, we are faced with the question of eternity. “Had I a thousand deaths, I will all give it to the Lord,” he said. A few centuries earlier, St. Teresa of Avila calms the troubled heart, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing affright you. All things are passing. God only is changeless. He who has God wants nothing. God alone suffices.” Then it is correct to say that everything is vanity, except finding God. Everything passes. God alone is enduring.
If everything goes by, we are like pilgrims on the move. Our questions tell us of this journey: Where am I headed? What has God in store for me? Where will I be happy? We trek our own paths, we struggle with our destinies. Often we follow the paths of others like that of our parents or even our friends because they have been tried and tested. And somehow, for the risk-taker, the paths turn toward a bend, and we are left alone blazing our own trials. We take chances. We take risks. We get hurt and beaten up. We learn to survive failures. And yet, when we journey we know we are headed somewhere, towards something more eternal and enduring.
This was the life of Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions. They were ordinary Filipinos, perhaps a little Chinese, trekked the tried road, like everyone else. And then, they decided to go on a mission to Japan, risked life and limb and blazed a new trail. They took chances, endangered their lives, got hurt and beaten up, and died for the faith. Was it all in vain? Lorenzo said, “Had I thousand lives, I would have offered them up to the Lord.”
There is a book called, “Night” by Elie Wiesel, that records the memories of the death of his Jewish family who were taken from their Transylvania home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. The foreword was written by Francois Mauriac who met Elie Wiesel as a journalist. Elie Wiesel told him about it and he writes:
“And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world? Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost? And yet, Zion has risen up again out of the crematoria and the slaughterhouses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is they who have given it new life. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him. That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep.”
The worth of Lorenzo and his companions’ blood and tears is in the eyes of the Almighty, in the view of eternity. And perhaps for all of us, we may look at Lorenzo in the past, and then see ourselves now and ask what Lorenzo had asked himself: If I had been given a thousand lives, would I give it all to God? Perhaps, it is good to answer truthfully with our unmet desires, forgotten dreams and deepest regrets. Would you trade your life now for someone else more popular, rich and famous? Would you give your thousand lives to God? Or if not for God, then for whom?