All Souls Day
Thursday, November 2, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for Thursday, 30th Week of Ordinary Time: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings
(Feast Day reflection; daily reflection follows).
Funeral directors report that in our day some people just want their dead to be put in the ground without ceremony, especially religious. This isn’t just insensitive; it is arrogant. It rejects the almost universal judgment of the whole human race from the beginning of history. In fact, burial customs are one sign archeologists use to decide whether a primitive tribe had intelligent life. Rational people showed a special respect for their dead, an awareness they were more than just animals, usually accompanied by recognition of some kind of existence after death. Only we, in the pride of our technology and our ignorance of philosophy, are narrow enough to dismiss the wisdom and knowledge of all other human beings as unenlightened myth.
We Christians, however, with respect for all rational traditions, bury our own dead with enhanced understanding, enlightened by the revelation of God.
We do more. We make a point of remembering all the dead. Not just family members, fellow citizens, and friends. We commemorate “all the faithful departed.” And we include with the faithful “those whose faith is known to God alone.” This is not common human custom. It is something Catholic and “catholic” to be proud of.
Wisdom 3:1-9 affirms that death is not “utter destruction.” On the contrary, the dead are alive and “in peace” and “abide with God in love.” It is good to hear this from God’s own mouth.
Romans 5:5-11 adds something. It tells us our happiness after death is a gift of God’s overwhelming love. Given the fact of sin, it is not something we can just take for granted. But God has not left us alone to deal with the consequences of our sins, and Paul wants us to appreciate how extraordinary God’s love is.
Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Our experience of God is overwhelming love. In the face of death our “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The “commemoration of all the faithful departed” should remind us that Christian living is essentially an experience of love. So this is what we can expect Christian dying to be.
John 6:37-40 is introduced by Jesus’ words: “I am the bread of life. “For us, Jesus made eternal life a physical experience: “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” When we feel doubt, receiving Communion reassures us that either Jesus is lying or he means it when he says, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” The host in our mouth is the hope in our heart.
Action: Take Jesus seriously. Believe what his actions say to us.
Remember His Faithfulness and Persevere
The Responsorial Psalm affirms God’s unfailing mercy and love: “Save me, O Lord, in your mercy” (Psalm 109).
In Romans 5: 31-39 Paul puts all our security in the reliability and power of God’s love. Nothing, he says, “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It makes no difference what others think or say about us, or even what they do to us: “If God is for us, who can be against?… It is God who acquits us; who will condemn?” What can anyone do that will separate us from the love of Christ? That is all that matters.
All we need to concern ourselves with is persevering in faith, hope and love, serving God as faithful stewards of all that has been entrusted to us. If we do this we can live in perfect confidence, because God’s love will never fail us. He is the God of “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). He proved it by giving up his own Son for us on the cross. We pray with assurance, “Save me, O Lord, in your mercy.”
Luke 13: 31-35 shows us Jesus practicing what Paul preached. The sustaining force in Jesus’ life was the Father’s love for him and his love for the Father. Even when his people refused to listen to him and Herod sought to kill him, he continued on his course: “I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose” — by dying and rising from the dead. He was saddened by Jerusalem’s refusal to accept the Good News. Later he would weep over the city, foreseeing her fate (Luke 19:41). But he kept going until on the cross he could finally say, “It is finished!” (John 19:30; see 16:4).
The greatest test of stewardship is perseverance — especially when it seems that Jesus has left us alone and is never coming back! That is when it is hard to persevere in prayer, to keep affirming our faith and hope, and to continue working against all visible odds for the transformation of society and the establishment of God’s reign in the world.
That is when we have to remember that God’s love never fails and will not fail us. We have to insist with ourselves that nothing, absolutely nothing, “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And we have to keep looking forward to the day Jesus promised, when we and all who have persevered in faith and hope will cry out at his coming, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Action: Be Christ’s steward. Remember his faithfulness and persevere.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry