I am sure many of our readers have watched or read about the centenary of the end of World War One, on Sunday 11 November. We had a brief commemoration at school on Friday 9 November.
There is one thing that still shocks me about that war; the number of people (not just soldiers) that lost their lives! The figure is staggering.
Then there have been other recent events that kept the idea of death and loss in front of our minds; an air disaster, devastating bush fires in California, the trial and conviction of the driver in Bourke Street, the terrorist attack in the city… Indeed, we seem to be surrounded by violence and death!
It is so easy to lose faith, to be depressed by these negative events, almost despair without hope.
At school during this week and next week, we are celebrating LIFE in the Year Level Masses, focusing on the importance of the AFTER-LIFE, and reflecting on the continuity of life, from conception to eternity, while gathering hope and strength in the positive response of people to tragic occurrences.
Belief in the after-life is not only an integral aspect of the Christian faith, but is shared by many religions. As a matter of fact, it goes back to civilizations that pre-date Christianity. The Egyptians built pyramids where the pharaohs were buried with treasures of gold and jewellery as a guarantee of a good after-life and an appeasement to the gods. In 1974 in China during an excavation, 6000 life-size statues of warriors, horses and chariots were unearthed. They were to be the secret army to protect the Emperor after his death. In the Americas, the Aztec and Mayan civilizations buried their dead with bowls and eating utensils to be used in the after-life.
Jesus in the gospel told his disciples that he was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them, so that where he was going, they could follow, too. And he insisted that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life too. In one of the prayers of the Mass, we proclaim: “In Him the hope of the blessed resurrection has dawned, that while we are saddened by the certainty of dying, we might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended, and an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”
We honour our dead with their photos in our homes, with beautifully decorated graves, with plaques and other symbols dedicated to them, with naming our descendants after them… In our chapel there are small plaques with the names of Salesians, staff members and students who have died while serving or attending the College.
In conclusion, here is a short prayer that we can all use to pray for our dear deceased ones:
Eternal rest grant unto them, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them;
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB