FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Wisdom 3:1-9 | Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 | Romans 6:3-9 | John 6:37-40
Today we celebrate All Souls Day. When we commemorate those we have known and loved who have died, we are reminded that we too are going to die. For many of us that is not a pleasant thought. Today the Church provides us with three wonderful readings from scripture that can be very reassuring as we confront death.
The ancestral home of poet Jose Perez is open to the public in Balagtas, Bulacan. When he died, his mother Josefa left his room exactly as it was on the day of his death. At the desk of this brilliant man was his final poem, handwritten on a pad. After his mother died, her friends discovered that Jose Perez's last poem had been lost forever. Because his mother had made his room into a shrine and not moved anything, the sun had bleached the ink in which the poem was written until it was invisible. The poem was gone. If we stay in mourning, we lose so much of life.
Whether it’s a close friend, spouse, partner, parent, child, or other relative, the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming. The bereavement and mourning process can trigger many intense and unexpected emotions. It can be very painful. It can feel like nothing matters. People describe it as being cut in two or losing a part of themselves. These feelings can be very frightening and upsetting. Our First reading from the Book of Wisdom allows those natural reactions, but offers a different and more spiritually faithful response. "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them." As we grieve the death of a loved one it can bring us comfort to know that they are being kept safe in the hands of God. The picture I see upon reading this passage is of God holding the dead person close. The same God who made the promises to us as heard in the passage is the one who also promises to care for all of God’s children until the day of resurrection and beyond. God gives grace and mercy to the dead and takes good care of those he has chosen. Let us leave to God to determine who are righteous and who are not while we take comfort from his promise to care and protect.
Tum-Tum ran away from home at the age of 3, after witnessing his father murder his mother. In the jungle it was said that he was taken care of by monkeys. A year later, he was found hiding in a tree by a woman from a local tribe, who alerted the men in the village, who went back to capture John. The monkeys tried to defend John by throwing sticks, but in the end he was captured and taken back to the village. Tum-Tum had thick hair covering his body, he walked on his knees and knuckles, and he couldn't tolerate cooked food. He was sent to a local a Catholic orphanage where through the love, care and support he received he rediscovered his true identity as a human. Slowly he learnt how to speak, and walk upright. We need to recognize our true identity in Christ, we need to recognize that through Christ’s death on the cross, the power of sin has been broken.
Now there is a lot of talk in our second reading from the Letter to the Romans about sin and death and life. But here is the gist: The life we live, we live through our baptism. This baptism connects us to the death and resurrection of our Lord. Because he died, we have, in a sense died. And because he rose victoriously from the grave, we know that we have that life everlasting as well. We are united together with Christ. We live and die in fellowship with Christ our savior. His death is our death. His resurrection became our resurrection. If we become followers of Christ in this life, then after our death we shall continue to live with him in eternal life.
Years ago, I had a friend residing along the Seminary Road in Novaliches who was on the verge of losing her home in foreclosure. So the seminarians prayed for her. We prayed that a buyer would come along who wouldn’t take advantage of the situation. She got a letter a few days later. My friend told us that she’d had an offer on the house. Out of nowhere a man called and asked if her house was for sale. How did he know? It wasn’t even on the market. We connected the dots: The moment he called was practically the same as the moment we prayed. Amazing!
In our Gospel today, Jesus affirms once again that the will of God is that he should not lose anything of what God gave him, but that he should raise them up on the last day. The Father's will is that every one who knows the Son and believes in him, shall have eternal life, and that in the resurrection day Christ shall raise him from the grave. These verses show that the will of the Father applies to every one who believes in the Son and that Christ has brought to light immortality. He is the resurrection and the life. Does it comfort you to know that God desires eternal life for everyone? In the Roman Catholic tradition, our celebration is based on the doctrine that the souls of the faithful which at death are not ready to enter into the fullness of God, may be helped to do so by prayer and by the celebration of the Mass. As prescribed by the Enchiridion of Indulgences and the Catechism, here are some ideas for praying for these suffering and often neglected souls, especially during November:
1. Visit to a Cemetery. Only applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is bestowed for this work each day between November 1 and November 8.
2. Visit to a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day. PLENARY INDULGENCE. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or -for those entitled to use it, a semi public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.
3. "Eternal Rest." A partial indulgence only to the souls in purgatory. "Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace."
Note: Indulgences reduce or cancel the temporal punishment that we incur through sin. For the faithful to obtain indulgences for the poor souls it is necessary to observe the “usual conditions”, i.e., sacramental confession and Holy Communion, and praying for the intentions of the Pope.
The souls of the faithfully departed are in an incapacitated state. Though they are no longer physically among us, they are not far from us. Though they are no longer breathing, they are still living. Let us pray for those who can no longer pray for themselves. Let us offer sacrifices for those who can no longer offer an acceptable sacrifice for themselves. Let us love those who can no longer love others. This is not something weird. This is natural. We do it with our dead. We do it with our heroes. We do it for our loved ones. This is how Christ showed His love. This is how we can show our love. We are a family forever.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum