Jesus said to the crowds: "Everything that the Father gives to me will come to me, because I came down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me.
And this is the will of the One who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day."
Death is an inescapable reality for all creatures. For us human beings it is a tremendous mystery that confronts us all without exception. Both the rich and the poor; the powerful and the weak; the oppressors and the oppressed; the bad and the good . . . will inevitably reach that finish line whose time, place and circumstances are known to God alone.
We Christians believe that not everything ends with death. The spiritual component of man, his immortal soul, lives on. While death does conclude the earthly phase of human life, it is also a “passage,” a transformation of the human situation into something absolutely “new,” though closely dependent on the way we fared in the days of our earthly life, especially the final moments.
The new form of existence which all the souls enter is not the same for all. A judgment determines it – the conclusion of a very personal encounter between God and the soul of every individual, in an atmosphere of absolute truth and justice. A judgment which will be made known to all only at the final judgment.
All this is part of the “mystery of death.” But our present ignorance of the destiny of the departed should not paralyze or frighten us, for we know that God is not only just, but also merciful and does not reject any of those who approach Him with humble trust (see Jn 6:37).
But this is not all. Our Catholic faith tells us that a vital link, the “Communion of Saints,” still binds together those who are still living on earth with those who have crossed the border of death. With our prayers, sacrifices, offerings and words of charity we may be of help to those who have preceded us in the “afterdeath.” The prayers offered today can help save a person who died thousands of years ago, for with God every moment, no matter how remote in time for us, is still “now.”
All this is not a “pious invention” propagated to console people who feel so much the loss of their dear ones. It is a consoling truth which the Church, instructed by the Spirit, teaches us all in order that our view of death may be filled with hope and love.
We are filled with hope that no one should ever despair of the eternal salvation of anyone, not even of those who may have died without the Sacraments and apparently unrepentant of their sins. In the top-secret encounter behind close doors between God and each soul, everybody else is shut out, but not the intercessory power of Jesus Christ and all his “friends” . . .
Such a God-given hope spurs us to perform those “works of love” like prayer, the offering of personal sacrifices and especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist in behalf of the deceased. This is all that we can do – but it is really a lot! – for all our brothers and sisters who have passed away from this life.
Our presence in the cemeteries, especially on All Souls’ Day, our prayers, our lighting of candles and bringing of flowers are meant to say just this: “We believe that our dead are alive in God, and we intend to show our hope and love for them through these works of piety which become precious through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He it was who – through His death and resurrection – made death not only “bearable,” but actually transformed it into a “Passover,” an entrance into everlasting life.
Euchalette 2 November 2008
Word and Life Publications
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