“Empty handed” is an expression that I heard from a man who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and knew he was going to die. We undoubtedly see things better when in a life or death situation, and value what is truly relevant and important in life.
The liturgical season of Lent is a very important time in our life as a Church. Many of us take it very seriously and try to live it intently. We use Lent to get closer to God. The Old Testament says: No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you”. (Deuteronomy 16:16). This passage should make us reflect on the importance of our deeds. Everything we do in our life should be aimed at filling our hands with good deeds.
Thus, we should use this time of spiritual commitment to make a sacrifice and try to avoid distractions by focusing deeper on the Lord in an attempt to understand the divine behavior better and turn ourselves into more loving individuals in this world, our work and homes. This is something we must do not only during Lent and Easter, when we remember Jesus’ extreme sacrifice for the love of us, but continuously during all the days our lives.
Jesus, an example of strength before suffering
Besides his last words, said from the Cross, Jesus left his teachings on how to live and face life pains and suffering. It is precisely during Lent that we can clearly understand Jesus’ mission as a messenger of the Father. By living a life of service, Jesus showed us that life must be appreciated, cherished and lived relentlessly, and that we must understand that we may only be free if we continue to believe firmly in the promises of our Lord when we face storms and turmoil in our lives.
Jesus is about everything: life, health, happiness, suffering, death and resurrection. At the end of it all, Jesus defeats death itself by opening the path of eternal life and showing us that this life may be lived in hope.
Now I will explain to you in an almost poetic way my experience with Juan, the person I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, when I visited him at the hospital. My experience with Juan breathed life into my service in a big way, something I have discussed many times, namely it showed me how to use the gift of life.
I met him at a hospital.
His name was Juan.
The doctors gave him the news:
“Juan, you will die in a few weeks.”
His eyes showed deep sorrow,
but not for the fear of death,
that was quickly approaching his door.
Juan was not sad for the things that he will leave behind,
or the lack of faith in God – for Juan was a believer.
It was at the hospital where Juan reached grace,
for he was forgiven by the mercy of God
when he heard the priest say: “Your sins are forgiven.”
With pain in my heart, I asked Juan,
if you do not fear death and are at peace with God,
why would there be sorrow in your heart?
A deep sorrow filled Juan’s heart.
And I asked again: “Why?” Why?
With tears in his eyes, he said:
I do not fear death for God has forgiven me.
I do not fear the unknown, because I believe in God’s promises.
The pain is the result of something else;
the fact that I am empty handed.
“Why empty handed?” – I asked Juan
when tears started rolling down his cheeks.
He said: “Because when I was healthy
I never did anything for anyone;
my life was only filled with sins and evil deeds.
And now, I am laying useless on this bed, and I would love to live again
to talk about the love of God for the rest of my days.
It makes me sad to think that if I appear before God now,
I will be crushed to show that I am “empty handed”.
A few days later, death smoothly took Juan’s life.
And Juan appeared before God empty handed,
just as he had explained.
And I can tell you now, Juan,
that you can rejoice because your hands are empty no more.
Your words gave fruit in my life
and inspired me to do what you wanted to do:
avoid appearing before the Lord empty handed.
This beautiful experience continues to have an impact on me even today, for many people, like Juan, may understand that they have misused their lives, and that when the time is up for them to appear before the Lord, they will have nothing to show for the many good things they could have done.
I thank God for Juan, whose desire to serve touched my heart. I think right then he could have told Jesus that his hands were not empty anymore. Based on this experience, I have recommended many of the people who serve at El Sembrador to exhaust themselves doing God’s works, so they do not appear before Him empty-handed.
Resurrection is the foundation of our hope
I also want to remind you that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most relevant event in the universe, for Jesus is the sole and true God that has turned back to life after defeating death. Jesus’ grave is empty because Jesus returned to life and will come back again in glory to give us joy and save us all, dead or alive.
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “For if we have been united with Him in death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection”. (Romans 6:5). Our final destination will not be the void or a grave. Our final destination is the long-desired peak of happiness because death has been defeated by Jesus. All of those who believe in the Resurrection of the Lord know that we have experienced it in full. I mean, His life, death and Resurrection, and indivisible whole.
Bear in mind that Jesus has come to honor a deeply-rooted longing in the heart of men: live happily forever with no sorrow, pain or suffering. Jesus’ resurrection is the victory over death. And we may hope to resurrect with Him. Our hands should never be empty, but filled with offerings, the fruits of what we have produced under Jesus’ light.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, unremittingly says: “Do not let them steal your hope away”. Hope, the serene certainty that our life will end up well; that we will resurrect to a full and happy life.
Thank you for giving so generously
I want to thank, wholeheartedly, all the sowers and missionaries for their contributions, generosity, loyalty and help. What you do fills up your hands with offerings that please the Lord; your hands are not empty but packed with blessings that you have earned through your generosity. Your contributions allow for many people to be reached by the Gospel through radio, TV, Internet, our missions and congresses. May God bless you and continue to shower your family with blessings and help you in your needs. I personally, and on behalf of ESNE, will continue to thank you for your fidelity to God and to those who are benefited by your actions.
I wish you all a very Happy Easter bearing always in our minds that Christ has resurrected! Knowing that Jesus has come to offer peace and confirm that He is the foundation of our faith and Christian hope. May Mary, Mother of the resurrected Christ, obtain for us the blessed Easter gift.