Archbishop Villegas: Death a gift of mercy

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan leads the conference for educators during the university-wide retreat at the Quadricentennial Pavilion on March 7. Screengrab from the University of Santo Tomas’ Facebook live stream.

DEATH MUST not be feared as it is a gesture of mercy bestowed by God to free humans from their sins and misery on earth, an archbishop said. 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said that while a long life may be a blessing, it can also be a curse as it prolongs worldly suffering. 

“Death is a gift of mercy so that we who live in his valley of tears, our sighing, our mourning in his valley of tears, all of these will come to an end because of death,” Villegas said during his lecture for the St. Thomas Aquinas Double Jubilee retreat on Thursday, March 7.

“The Lord did not die on the cross in order to give you [a] long life. Don’t pray for [a] long life, pray for life everlasting,” he added.

According to the archbishop, death bridges Catholics to an everlasting life with God, away from the suffering of Hell on earth that impedes people from seeking His grace. 

Villegas said forgiving others and asking for forgiveness grants humans freedom and “the happiness of death” and warned Catholics of a miserable demise for those who refuse to do so. 

Noting Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, the prelate said the separation of the body and the soul during death is “the ultimate pain of self-giving” which reflects the love of Christ Himself. 

“Maybe it is good to prepare ourselves for that eventuality when we can say, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they’re doing.’ And we can say to everyone, ‘Everybody, please forgive me; at the time I heard you, I did not know what I was doing,’” he said.

Devotees must also act only for the Lord as doing things for the wrong reasons is sinful, Villegas added.

“Our silent adoration while on earth is actually a prelude to the perpetual adoration in Heaven. When we do not care about ourselves, when we are only basking in the radiance of God’s love for us,” he said.

Wisdom and faith

Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula also told Thomasians to use the gift of wisdom to fulfill God’s mission and not for personal gain. 

“Go to Thomas, and like him, go and be persons of wisdom and faith in God. We are Thomasians, wise and loving,” Advincula said during his homily.

According to him, an individual would only be deemed truly wise if he has established his faith in God. 

The prelate also urged educators to “infuse God” in teaching the youth as the University should produce students who are not only successful in their profession but also devoted to God.

Pero ang taong marunong, ginagamit ang karunungan para sa kabutihan ng kapwa, para mamayani ang katarungan sa lipunan, para sa pagmamalasakit at pagmamahal at para sa ikadarakila ng Diyos (A wise man uses wisdom for the goodness of others, for social justice to prevail, for care and love and for the glory of God),” he added. 

The Double Jubilee of St. Thomas Aquinas commemorates the 700th anniversary of the UST patron as a saint and his 750th death anniversary.

This year’s university-wide retreat carried the theme “Lord, nothing but you: Faith, Hope, Love in the Heart of St. Thomas.” It was held from March 5 to 7 at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. F

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