Immersed in Christ: November 2, 2020
COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED
(ALL SOULS DAY)
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 archaeologists 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 combined with 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.
Initiative: Take Jesus seriously. Believe what his actions say to us.