November 2: Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Readings: Wisdom3:1-9; Romans 5:3-9; John 6:37-40
On the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, we gather together not just to remember those who have died in the past, but to remember and celebrate the lives of concrete people who have been separated from us. Throughout this past month, our Book of Remembrance has gathered so many names that we want to remember in this Mass. The list does not limit God’s love and mercy. So these are not imaginary people, but real people from families that have been shattered by separation; families and spouses that are still grieving. We have all been through the pain of separation. We have all had to say goodbye to someone who has been very dear and very close to us. We all have had the experience of letting go of someone through death. It is never easy to let go of someone who is dear to you. You can never fill the void left by that person because that person is unique and only that person can fill that void.
This reality hit me recently as I was watching the 1993 movie "Shadowlands" starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. It is a true story about an episode in the life of the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis. He was an outstanding and popular lecturer and had a lasting influence on his students. He was a bachelor for a long time but late in life he met an American lady whom he loved her. His life blossomed. He became more hopeful, more adventurous. His face became radiant and everyone around him realised that something good was happening in his life. However this lady was soon diagnosed with cancer and died at a young age. He married her before she died. The movie ends with this dramatic scene. His wife had a child from a previous marriage. After the funeral the young boy of about ten years of age is alone in the attic. C.S. Lewis sits down next to him. All the boy says "I miss her", and both start to cry as they hug each other. "I miss her." These are profound words which betray so much loneliness, so many shattered dreams and so much hurt and pain. How was he to cope with this reality? In 1940, C.S. Lewis wrote an excellent book entitled The Problem of Pain. In the preface he wrote, "Nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all".
That courage and consolation of God’s love is found in today's Readings. In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we hear very comforting words that “the souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them.” Contrary to the wisdom of this world, those who have passed on are at peace, for the Lord has purified them like gold in a furnace and taken then to Himself. In the Gospel Jesus assures us that the will of the Father is to bring everyone who believes in hin into eternal life. It is because of our faith and hope in Christ who died and rose that our loved ones now rest in peace with him in heaven. On this day as we pray for your loved ones and all the faithful departed, let us pray that our faith and hope in the resurrection of Christ may continually be sustained. 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 the Church an opportunity to share in your grief and bereavement and to remember in a special way your loved ones. 2) We remember them in a special way through this Mass because they need our prayers and the Mass is the highest form of prayer we can ever offer. 3) Through our individual and collective faith; through this sacrifice of praise pleading for God’s mercy and love, may our loved ones and all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
©2011 John S. Mbinda