Our deep longing

IN the midst of the hype of the Dodgers games this past week, I felt a deep longing for my parents’ presence.  Perhaps it’s because it’s that time of the year in the Church when we especially remember our deceased family members and friends.

And so, on my day-off last Monday, I went to my parents’ tomb, laid flowers there, and prayed the Rosary. I put my hand on their tombstone to connect with them in some way. I felt good, but I still longed to see them and feel their presence.

For many of us, there will always be a profound desire to see our deceased parents again. It’s natural to experience this because, after all, we came from them and their DNA will always be a part of us. They were the ones who nourished us with love and sacrificed their lives to give us a better life. No matter how imperfect they were, we still long for their presence, love, and care.

What if we feel the same way for God, our common Father? What if we also have a deep longing to be with God in the life hereafter? Isn’t this what all the saints wanted, to seek the face of God? Isn’t this what all of us want, to be in heaven along with our loved ones?

However unpleasant it is, the month of November makes us remember our mortality. But for us Christians, this fact should not make us sad or afraid, but instead, it should allow us to yearn for that time to finally return to our Creator, our Father.

“Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven,” Jesus tell us in the Gospel this Sunday. It’s because he wants us to know that our final destiny is to be with His Father in heaven. We may enjoy a good life here on earth with our parents, family, and friends, but Jesus also wants to cultivate in our hearts a deep longing to be with God, particularly at the end of our earthly lives.

If heaven is our ultimate home, so what do we do on earth to inherit it? First of all, it’s not just through the things we do, but through the attitudes, we manifest to God and others. The best attitude to have as we live here on earth is humility.

It’s the humility to know that we are not gods, that nothing here on earth will satisfy or complete us. It’s the humility to know that we are not the center of the universe, that our fulfillment on earth is humble service to God and our brothers and sisters. It’s the spirit of gratitude that everything we are and everything comes from God. For indeed, God, our Father, is the Author of life and the sources of all blessings, and so He deserves our utmost honor and praise.

Yes, it is the humility to know that all material things will not last, including our bodies. And so we must yearn for the things that will forever be etched in our hearts and those of others—our relationships, our aspirations for a better world, and our right intentions for everyone on earth.

It is no wonder that Jesus put the two greatest commandments together: to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. These two commandments keep us humble and grounded on our right purpose as children of God.

So, let’s be like the saints whose sole desire is to see the face of God. Let’s hope for that time when we can face Him and tell Him humbly as his faithful servant that “we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). Amen.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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