Friday, September 25, 2009
At the Horizon of Hope
Last Sunday, my brother Jesuits and I visited the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila which pays tribute to 36,285 US and Filipino soldiers who died in WWII. We were all drawn by a sense of peace and hope which the 152 acre place radiates. I was particularly struck that more than half of the graves where unnamed, for those lost at sea and known to God alone (like the one above).
Two days ago, my niece Monica Thuy Pham passed away. She fought bravely a rare form of brain cancer for almost two years. Her 21st birthday was celebrated less than a month ago. Human understanding and words fail to make sense of the mystery of her suffering and death. Why so young, O Lord? She is full of life, full of hope, until the end. Although it is quite typical for me to ask, “God, why take her so young?” my thinking does betray an expectation. I am socially conditioned to presume that we are entitled to 70-80 years of life. But if we see life as a gift, given each day and sustained each moment by the breath of God, then can we demand how long our gift of life is, which is known to God alone?
Three days ago, I asked God in prayer, “Please show me your response regarding Thuy’s suffering and our family’s ordeal.” After much silence and emptiness, something emerged from my imagination. I saw Jesus very close to her, sharing her pain and giving her strength to carry on. His face was sad and pained, yet it exuded a deep compassion and desire to ease her suffering. It is not easy for me to explain, for words fail to describe such mysteries. Praying for Thuy helped me turn my gaze on the Crucified One. I saw that Jesus was sharing her cross and she shared his. (I believe they are sharing much more than that now.)
Thuy left this world in peace, with family and close friends at her bedside. It’s good that God took her earlier to ease her pain as well as everyone’s. Tomorrow is the Mass of Resurrection to welcome her into new life. She left a deep imprint in my heart with the spirit of a fierce fighter and a faith that accepts with limited understanding and occasional doubts. She inspires many people, including Manna (her Dong Hanh-CLC group) and me.
The theologian Karl Rahner imagines God as the “Holy Mystery beyond the horizon of our knowing and loving.” God is more than what we can understand, love, or desire. God is beyond the horizon of our hoping. Thuy, you are known, loved, and cherished by God and many of us. Thank you for helping us turn our gaze to the horizon of hope. You are at horizon of hope now. Go with God & "Happy Birthday" in Heaven!