The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
November 2, 2014
Reading 1 WIS 3:1-9
Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Reading 2 ROM 5:5-11
Gospel JN 6:37-40
At the heart of all our worship as Catholic Christians, we pause to remember. We remember Christ, and all he did for us. We remember how he suffered, died and rose for us. We remember what he did at table with his friends on the night before he died. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, then, we remember someone who has died – our brother Jesus.
And every time we celebrate the Eucharist we remember others who have died too. We remember all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only them but ALL the departed – everyone who has died – and we pray that through the mercy and love of God, every one of them will enjoy the light and peace of God forever.
Of course, when we pray for those who have died we remember first those whom we loved the most, those whom we miss the most. When I pray, my heart always remembers my mother and father. Others too, but always them. But why do we pray for them? What do we pray for them?
Our knowledge of human frailty and our faith in God’s mercy teach us that when we die, God might not be quite finished with preparing us, making us ready for eternal life.
Our whole life on earth is a journey to the dwelling place Jesus has prepared and reserved for us in his Father’s house. Sometimes we stay right on the path that leads us there, and sometimes we take short cuts or make detours, or even turn around and walk in the opposite direction!
So it might be, it might even be likely, that at the end of our life our rough edges might need some buffing and polishing. Our Church has long taught us that after death, those not quite ready for heaven may need some further purification. We call it purgatory although that word itself is not found in sacred scripture.
We might have a mistaken picture of that place. It’s not some flaming concentration camp on the outskirts of hell. It’s not God’s last chance to make us suffer.
It’s like the fire we just heard described in the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, “As gold in the furnace, God will prove us, purify us, and take us to himself … and we shall shine … and we shall abide forever with God in love … “ If there is pain in purgatory, it is the pain of longing to be with God, to be worthy of the heaven Jesus won for us.
And so we pray for those who have gone before us, that God will bring to completion the good work begun in their lives while the were still with us.
Of course, many of those whom we remember on All Soul’s Day were long ago perfected by God’s mercy and welcomed to their places in heaven. We remember and pray for them too.
Today, and through the month of November, we remember them all:
- Those who were buried from our parish this past year
- Those whose names are inscribed in the Book of Life
- And the ones whose memory we carry in our hearts and our prayers, as we come to the Eucharistic table and remember …
And last but certainly not least, we remember Jesus, our brother, who died for us and rose, and opened the door to his Father’s house for us, preparing a dwelling place of peace, for each of us, for all eternity.