1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30
In the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, not in heaven above nor on earth beneath is there such a God as you, true to your covenant and your kindness towards your servants when they walk wholeheartedly in your way. Yet will God really live with men on the earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built! Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, O Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place.
‘Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place. From heaven where your dwelling is, hear; and, as you hear, forgive.’
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition
My father passed away on January 3rd this year. He had been battling cancer for a while, so it wasn’t as if we were mentally unprepared. It still came as a shock though. Dad had always pulled through before. I thought I had another month with him, maybe another year even. He had just become a grandfather. I thought he would hold on to see his grandson grow a little older. So when I left Dad last, there were things still unresolved between us. My last words to him could have been kinder. They were not loving ones; they were words of resignation, of weariness. I will always regret that I grew tired and impatient and frustrated with our situation, and that I showed it.
I am not the only one to feel this remorse. Dad and his brothers rarely spoke, the result of years of unresolved hurts and wounds. Just before he died, Dad was broken-hearted that there was still not enough forgiveness amongst them to embrace him as part of the family again. Dad is not a man of many words, but when we argued about it over Christmas, my father cried and told me that there were traditions and practices in his family that I did not understand. Dad hardly ever cried.
It’s surreal when someone you love passes on. Your perspective of time is turned on its head. You struggle to catch your breath because you realize that things are finite, that you are finite. Every relationship that you have with anyone else becomes tainted by the fear that your time with them might start to run out too. You become very aware of those whom you have yet to forgive, and those whose forgiveness you have yet to seek. At Dad’s wake, his ‘estranged’ brothers filed up to his open casket, barely coherent, wracked with grief. I watched them and it made me wonder, ‘Where were you all the years he tried to reach out to you? You hid behind tradition, behind foolish practices that meant nothing and signified nothing. What is the point of your tears now?’. And then I wondered, what is the point of my own tears now? Dad is already dead. What is the point of regret if the person whose forgiveness you never sought is no longer there to offer it now that you seek it?
God commanded us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. He also told us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I could have loved Dad better. I read that the dead never truly leave us. Their bodies lose their earthly form, but they are still with us, in our thoughts, in the pain of remembrance, in the lack of closure we feel when issues remain forever unresolved. Dad’s brothers were at his funeral the day we committed him to the Lord. I would like to think that Dad, in his spiritual form, was there to witness this and be a part of the family reunion that he craved. My priest tells me that when a person dies, his soul goes back to the Lord and the way he loves the Lord and the people he connected with on earth changes to a perfect and ideal love. I like the idea of that. That somehow in death, all our old wounds, physical and spiritual, fall away. And in that new and perfect state, my father has found his peace.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all our loved ones who have passed on and are now with The Lord. We pray that the passage of time does not dull our memory of them, that they remain alive in our thoughts and in our hearts.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith and the grace of God that allows us to carry on despite the failures and imperfections of our earthly relationships.