Friday, October 31, 2008

November 2: Commemoration All Faithful Departed

2 November Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
Suggested Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9; Romans 5:5-11; Matthew 11:25-30

This Sunday we celebrate our communion with the faithful departed; our family members, relatives and friends who have passed away. This commemoration of the faithful departed gives us an opportunity to ask some basic questions. As Christians, what should be our attitude to death? We have all been through the pain of separation. We have all had to say goodbye to someone very dear and very close to us. We all have had the experience of letting go of someone through death. The story is told of a woman who had been in a coma and in near death experience, when her family called the priest. All the children were gathered around as the priest arrived to anoint her. As soon as she was anointed she woke up and described her experience. She said she had been in heaven and wanted to go back there because it was so peaceful and very beautiful. So the priest said to the gathered members of the family: you heard your mom’s wish that she wants to go where she had been. The priest therefore prayed over her again for her to return to that place, and as soon as the prayer ended, she died. As a priest, I have been privileged to be with families facing difficult situation of their loved ones who are terminally ill. Apart from giving the Last Rites, the best help I could offer was to strengthen their faith on the meaning of suffering in the light of Christ’s own suffering, death and resurrection. Perhaps the best example of a positive attitude to death has been Pope John Paul II. He had a choice to be tied up with tubes and catheters and remain in one of the best hospitals in Rome, but he chose to be brought back home. That was a sign that his death was near. His time had come to return to the Lord. He gave us an example on how to face terminal illness and death.

On the Solemnity of All Souls Day, while we truly miss and mourn our family members and friends, we also praise and thank God for his promises of salvation extended to them. We are offered an opportunity to remember our loved ones who have passed away. The liturgy of the word gives great hope of life after death. But the purpose of today’s celebration is to pray for those faithful departed who may need our prayers. We are assured that the baptized who believe in Jesus Christ will in the end be rewarded with eternal life. Because of their faith in the resurrection, Christ will raise them up in the last day. On this day as we pray for our loved ones and all the faithful departed, let us pray that our faith and hope in the resurrection of Christ may continually be sustained. The best gift we can offer to our loved ones who have died is our prayers, and November 2 is an opportunity to do that; to remember them in a special way. They need our prayers. In many parts of the world in addition to going to Mass, family members go the cemetery to bring fresh flowers and pray at the tomb. At this Mass we pray for all of them, that God may hasten their time to get to heaven. What is the message? 1) This commemoration gives us an opportunity to remember in a special way our loved ones who have left us and all the faithful departed; 2) We remember them through our prayers because they need them; 3) The liturgy is also an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of death in the light of our faith and hope in Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
©2008 John M. Mbinda

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