THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
“In a span of seven and a half months, a good number of people close to us passed away.”
This is the gist of some of the saddest text and private messages we received over the past few months following the start of the quarantine season in March of this year.
Some of them died due to COVID-19. A good number of them were health workers – doctors, nurses, medical technologists and hospital staff. Others were prominent citizens and ordinary folks who, despite caution, were infected by the deadly virus.
There are those who passed away during the past eight months simply due to old age. It was as if they found the relative peace and quiet of the quarantine season a perfect time to bid this usually chaotic world a final good-bye.
The passing away of people we know and those who were close to us lead us to ask the question, “Have I been living my life well?”
Has my life been meaningful?
What is a meaningful life? What gives life “meaning”?
As we mark All Saints Day in the solace of our homes, we invite our readers to ponder these questions. To help them do that, we offer the example of the life of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, as a sterling Filipino model of the well-lived life.
Here are some of the highlights of Dr. Rizal’s life which made it a stand-out.
First, it was a life marked by continuous learning and the search for excellence.
Second, it was a life spent in the service of others.
Third, it was a life offered as a sacrifice for the fulfillment of the nation’s highest aspirations.
It will be recalled that Dr. Rizal was a scholar, an artist and a sportsman. The early part of his youth was spent on the search for knowledge and specialization in various fields – anthropology, ophthalmology, literature, journalism, agriculture, urban planning and development, languages, among others.
He was also a painter, a writer, a sculptor, a novelist, an essayist, and a playwright.
In the field of sports, much has been written about him as a having dabbled in martial arts, fencing, and marksmanship.
It appears his search for excellence had much to do with his effort to inspire his nation to rise above the mire of ignorance. He did not intend to be brilliant for the sake of being labeled a genius. In striving for intellectual, physical, and mental development, he was showing others that they, too, can be better and create for themselves a better life.
No doubt, Dr. Rizal belonged to a privileged class. He probably did not have to worry about sustenance. His family had enough resources which allowed him to pursue his passion and goals. He did not waste that privilege. He dedicated himself to the pursuit of a mission that benefited others.
His death added fuel to the raging desire of a nation to be free. When he died, he left behind a legacy emulated by several generations of Filipinos.
He lived a rather short life – three decades and three years. He must have achieved more than what others who died after living twice his lifetime had done in life.
Following the lesson of his life, it can be said that a life well-lived is a life lived for others, not just for one’s self.
Perhaps, that is the very lesson which the lives of Saints show us.
The way we now understand it, “saints” are ordinary human beings who strived to attain extraordinary holiness – not by their own strength but by learning to rely on the Grace of God.
They are “conquerors” – not that they conquered lands and built empires, but that they conquered the most common weakness of the human nature – selfishness.
Some of them did this by living the lives of a monastic or a contemplative – people who left the worldly life and went into a life of prayer and sacrifice in the confines of a convent or monastery.
Others achieved this by placing themselves at the service of the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed.
We may not all be recognized as saints in this way.
There is, however, an opportunity for each of us to live similar lives – lives spent in the service of others.
That service need not be of the same historical significance as what Dr. Rizal or Mother Teresa did.
We can be saints serving in the everyday grind of our ordinary lives.
Having lives well-lived is not a privilege given to a few. It is an opportunity given to all of us.
May we have a truly meaningful celebration of this Day of Saints.
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