By Fr. JOHN VERNIL LOPEZ, SDB
25 November 2016
Death Anniversary of Venerable Margaret Occhiena
“Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Today, we commemorate the death anniversary of Mama Margaret, the dearest mother of Don Bosco. She died in Turn, struck down by pneumonia on November 25, 1856, at 68 years of age. Many youngsters went to the cemetery crying as they would for their own mother.
Generations of Salesians called her and will continue to call her Mama. This is also the reason why we offer this Holy Mass. This is to remember the deceased parents (of some of our Salesians, Educators, and Bosconians). We celebrate not their death, but the good life they lived and their life now, eternal life with God.
Mama Margaret taught Don Bosco to be holy, and remain poor as a priest. She was the first Salesian Cooperator in the work for the poor. The poor boys had a mother who took care of them and in their needs. She cooked food, did the laundry and all the household chores until the day she died. Though she was illiterate, she was able to raise-up a great and educated man. Behind the greatness of Don Bosco are two women — Mama Margaret and Mama Mary, Our Help as Christians.
Behind each of us are great persons (our dearest parents). Each of the deceased parents is represented by these lighted candles. These are personally brought to the altar by some of us as their names were individually called. Even if only the tertiary level (College and TVED) is around due to the
cancellation of classes in the elementary and high school departments caused by the bad weather, we still continue to celebrate this Holy Mass today.
In the Gospel, we’ve just proclaimed the Beatitudes. Jesus exalts the poor in spirit, the meek, the humble, the merciful, the pure of heart … theirs will be the Kingdom of Heaven. He calls us to live a life of goodness, and not just a good life but to strive to really live a holy life. Thus, He assures us of our eternal reward.
Alexander The Great
Allow me to share to you this story of Alexander to end my homily. Alexander, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no consequence.
He now longed to reach home to see his mother’s face and bid her his last adieu. But, he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his distant homeland. So, the might conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.”
With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes. “My first desire is that”, said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury”. The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”
The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. But no one dared bring the question to their lips. Alexander’s favorite general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O King, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”
At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt.
1) I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor on this earth can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.
2) The second wish of strewing gold, silver, and other riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life greedy of power, earning riches but cannot take anything with me.
3) Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth. And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed I go out of this world.”
With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last.
Remember, your health is in your own hands, look after it. That one’s health is one’s wealth. Wealth is only meaningful if you can share and also enjoy while you are still alive, kicking and healthy. What you do for yourself dies with you. But what you do for others will live forever. Leave a legacy!
As we move on in our life here on earth, let us then strive to live not just good lives, but holy lives. A life with God is a life for others.
“Blessed are you…for your reward will be great in heaven.” The Word of God has been proclaimed, let us live it.
I knelt to pray but not for long
I had too much to do
Must hurry off and get to work
For bills would soon be due
And so I said a hurried prayer
Jumped up from off my knees
My Christian duty now is done
My soul could be at ease.
All through the day I had no time
To speak a word of cheer
No time to speak of Christ to friends
They’d laugh at me I feared
No time to give to those in need.
No time, no time, no time…
Too much to do
That was my constant cry.
At last it was time to die.
And when before the Lord I came,
I stood with downcast eyes
Within His hand He held a book,
It was the Book of Life.
He looked into the Book and said,
Your name I couldn’t find.
I once was going to write it down
But never find the time.