The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
Wisdom 3: 1-9, 2 Corinthians 5: 1, 6-10, John 11: 17-27
Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints. Today the Church invites us to commemorate all the faithful departed. As a community of faith and love, we celebrate the victory of the cloud of witnesses surrounding the throne on high and lovingly remember those who have gone before us. These feasts celebrating the dead are in keeping with St. Benedict’s injunction: “Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. Day by day remind mind yourself that you are going to die” (RB 4. 46-47). Knowing that death is not the end, St. Benedict adds, “Look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing” (RB 49.7). Death and resurrection are inseparable. The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “Forget all else, Lucilius, and concentrate on this one thing: not to fear the name of death. Through long reflection make death one of your close acquaintances, so that, if the situation arises, you can go out to meet it” (On Earthquakes).
By keeping the prospect of death ever before us, we learn to live in the present moment with holy abandon. By remembering the Saints in Heaven and the Souls in Purgatory, we keep alive the memories of all those who have gone before us. Having been united with them in Christ, we can walk with them all the days of our lives, until we meet again. Today is marked with a sweet melancholy. With grateful hearts, we praise God for the blessings we received through the people who have touched our lives. We enjoyed the gift entrusted to us on loan. As with all loans, we feel pain and sorrow when the one who deposited the pledge takes it back. Losing a loved one is never easy, and grief is the price we pay for having loved them. Today’s liturgy reminds us that God’s mercy is carried on the wings of the wind, and he is our light as we walk through the valley of darkness and death.
Today, we commemorate all those who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and… who sleep in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer I). The Church, our mother, like Christ her eternal bridegroom, shares the tears of those who grieve the death of loved ones. Like Christ, and through him, holy mother the church echoes the hymn of thanksgiving to the Father who has delivered us from the dominion of death. By his resurrection, Jesus taught us that death is like sleep from which He awakens us. It is comforting to think that it will be Jesus himself who will tell us to open our eyes in eternity. St. Augustine left us these beautiful thoughts. “How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you” (Confessions 10, 20: PL 32, 791). God of infinite mercy, we entrust to your loving kindness all those who have fallen asleep in death. When our time comes to enter into our heavenly homeland, draw us into your loving embrace.