Life After Death. Who’s San Roque?

Word Alive–Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD

March 29, 2020 5th Sunday of Lent

A group of friends wanted to know if there was basketball in heaven. They agreed that whoever died first should come back to inform them.
Conrad died first. One night, Rodel heard something like the voice of Conrad. Rodel blurted out: “Are you the one, Conrad”?
Conrad replied, “Yes.” Rodel said, “Okay, tell me: Is there basketball in heaven?”
Conrad replied: “Yes, but I have good and bad news for you. The good news is there is basketball in heaven. The bad news: you will join us in the game tomorrow”!

* * *

Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent. The gospel tells us that Jesus raised Lazarus back to life. Lazarus’ resurrection was intended as a preview of Jesus’ own resurrection after three days in the grave.
For us Christians, like Conrad and Rodel, death is not the end. There’s life after death, unlike atheists who do not believe in God. As someone bantered: “When an atheist dies, he is all dressed-up in the coffin—but nowhere to go!”

* * *

No matter how devastating or fearsome death may seem, with Martha and Mary, we make an act of firm faith, professing, “Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. You are the resurrection and the life.”

* * *

WHO IS ST. ROCK? Invoking the help of St. Rock or San Roque, a group of never-say-die devotees in San Miguel, Bulacan, held a procession around their barangay last Tuesday. The procession which bore two statues of their patron saint was accosted by soldiers manning the checkpoints. The devotees were reprimanded but they finished their procession.
Interviewed by a media lady, the devotee organizer said, “We’ve been doing this for a long time already. When a pestilence breaks out in our town, we run to San Roque and, thank God, our town is always spared.”

* * *

In the Oratio Imperata (Urgent Prayer) prescribed by the Church against the coronavirus pandemic we pray after the Mass, San Roque’s name is prominently included. Why is he invoked like those diehard Bulakeño devotees do?

St. Rock was born in Montpellier, France but after the death of his parents, he gave away the vast wealth of his family to the poor. He set out as a mendicant pilgrim to Rome. When he arrived there, an epidemic of virulent disease swept Italy and neighboring countries. San Roque bravely went around praying, helping, and consoling the patients. He healed a great number by just making the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads.

* * *
However, he was contaminated by the sickness and instead of seeking treatment in the hospital, he fled to the forest, waiting to die there. But a dog appeared from nowhere and took care of him. (Notice that statues of St. Rock are always depicted with a dog beside him. When dog lovers [and dog eaters?] venerate St. Rock’ statue, they also wipe the dog!). After St. Rock got well, he returned to his hometown which was then in the midst of war. Mistaken as a spy by his town mates, he was imprisoned and eventually died in 1337.

He was named by the Church as the patron saint of pestilences. His feast day is August 17.

* * *

Back to the Sunday gospel, when Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he wept. That’s not all, he showed his love and compassion concretely by raising Lazarus to life after four days in the tomb.
The act of Jesus is not something only to be admired but a lesson we should emulate as his true followers. Many times we think that Mass going, doing the Lenten rituals, or praying are enough to attain eternal salvation.

They are, of course, important but that’s not enough. We should also complement it by good works.

As a writer nicely put it, “A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of
knowledge but a heart full of love with an ear open to listen and a hand
willing to help.”

* * *

In these challenging times, Jesus’ compassion is exemplified by a lot of truly benevolent people but most especially our nurses, med-techs, doctors and health workers, who have been offering not only their services but also their lives exposed to the coronavirus patients.
Due to exposure, some get contaminated and die while others are quarantined.


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