31st Wednesday in Ordinary Time
All Souls Day
Wisdom 3:1-9; 2 Corinthians 5:, 6-10; John 11:17-27
We pray daily for our departed in the various prayers at the different masses that include a remembrance of those who have gone to God before us. This day is devoted to their memory in a special awareness of their need for fuller purification. A great mystery envelops the fate of each person who comes before the living God in judgment. We ask that he treat them with the love that Christ showed us all in his sufferings and death.
Already before our Savior was born the Jews had a firm belief that the Lord held in his hand the souls of the just. This conviction assured they were free of suffering so that they were at peace. In spite of all appearances they are not simply abandoned to decay but live in a new form of existence, known to God. As the unknown author of this Book of Wisdom goes on to affirm, the chosen were subject to testing by God’s plan during this life and remained constant and faithful. If this passage is cited in today’s liturgy it is to make us aware of our need to remain mindful of our own eventual end. We know it is sure to come, though we cannot know the hour.
When Saint Paul wrote his second Letter to the Corinthians, he was keenly aware of the temptations that they were subject to in that society. He warns them to be mindful that they are destined for a heavenly city that is eternal. He goes on to encourage them by asserting that can be bold as we walk in faith. This faith is daring so that we actually come to desire to be strangers to our bodily life in this world so that we migh depart to be with the Lord. How strong must we be in faith to overcome the many threats that life in this world of time poses to each of us. Paul was all the more conscious of human frailty later on, for having been deserted by all his associates when he was put on trial, as he told Timothy.
The Gospel we have just heard tells of an encounter of Jesus with Martha that prepared her for what was to be his most impressive miracle, the raising of Lazarus after he had been buried four days in the tomb. The words spoken by Martha when she meets with our Lord are an expression of a strong faith in the healing power Jesus had at his disposal. ”If you were here my brother would not have died.” More remarkably she adds “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God He will give you.” The Lord’s reply is an affirmation that remains powerful to this day “”I am the resurrection and the Life.” He adds that he gives a share in this risen life to those who put faith in his claim. Martha does not hesitate to assert her conviction “Yes for sure; you are the Christ of God.” Exactly what this faith implied is not evident. Recognition that Jesus was a Divine person was not stated explicitly until further understanding of the Trinity could be worked out. But implicitly he was known to have a unique relation to God already in his lifetime, as Martha here states.