All Souls Day – November 2, 2020
(Wisdom 3:1-9; Romans 6:3-9; Mark 4:35-41)
So many of us have expressed our desire to put the year 2020 behind us. It has proven to be far more unsettling, confusing, frightening and painful than any of us could have ever imagined eight months ago. And apart from all of the different perspectives that have been brought to bear upon the pandemic that has engulfed our world, the reality of sickness and death has loomed mightily in our lives throughout this year, hasn’t it?
For any of us who have lost someone that we love during this year – whether from the virus or from some other factor – the pain that has come from their passing has seemed all the more intense. In so many instances, we’ve been deprived of the opportunity to grieve the loss of loved ones and to say good-by in a manner that would typically allow us to bring some closure and peace to such difficult moment in our lives. Perhaps that’s why today’s celebration of All Soul’s Day – at least for me – seems so much more meaningful and necessary than ever before.
Some of you might recall that evening in March – about a week before the celebration of Holy Week was to begin – when Pope Francis stood alone in an empty, rain-slicked Saint Peter’s Square during the height of the coronavirus for a time of blessing and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
During that time of prayer, the Holy Father proclaimed the same gospel passage that was shared for this Mass today, which found the disciples in a boat with Jesus – who was asleep – as they feared for their lives in the midst of a dreadful storm that had enveloped them.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they shouted. Jesus awoke, called the winds and the sea and then said to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
In reflecting upon the Word of God during that evocative moment of prayer, Pope Francis offered these thoughts regarding Jesus’ question to his disciples in the midst of the storm. “Lord, you are calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. … You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing; … a time to choose what matters and what passes away. … Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient. … Let us then invite Jesus into our lives. … With him on board, there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God, life never dies.”
And so today, as a Church, we affirm the words of Pope Francis, “With God, life never dies.” And in so doing, we affirm the words of Saint Paul from today’s second reading, “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.”
This core belief that we profess connects All Souls Day to our lives in a way that is unlike most other days in the Church year. While our belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus won’t necessarily take away the pain that comes from grief, it does have the power to help us make sense of why we feel the presence of our loved ones, even in their passing and why we choose to gather in prayer for them today. It affirms what all of us believe, even if we cannot understand – that through the cross and resurrection of Jesus – and through the storms that envelope our lives – death is not the end for the faithful disciple but the passage to an eternity of peace.
And so, today, on this Feast of All Souls, we remember with the Church all of the holy souls, all of those dear people who have been woven into our world and our lives, who have passed from this world to the next and who journey to God. This day also affords us a cherished moment to remember that in their passing, this time of grief and pain will indeed pass away, for whether we dwell in this world or in God’s eternity, we are bound together eternally through faith. “Because with God, life never dies.”