Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
All Soul’s Day Mass – November 2, 2017
Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to share in a very blest conversation with someone whom I’ve been privileged to know for many years. He shared with me that he’s facing an illness that will eventually take his life much sooner than he had ever anticipated. Being a person of deep faith, he never once expressed fear about what the future held in store for him. Quite to the contrary, his words were filled with a belief in and the assurance of a blessed eternity with God that awaits him when he eventually passes from this world to the next. I marveled at his expressed confidence in the mercy and love of God that touched me so deeply that it challenged me to reflect upon how I might react if – and when – confronted by a similar life and death situation.
The strength of my friend’s ability to face his mortality and the hoped for rewards of a life of faith was tempered, however, when he said with an obvious depth of honesty and emotion, “The hard part is having to say good-by to those I love.”
And isn’t that the hardest part of what any of us experience in the face of death – letting go of those we love?
Today, however, we celebrate as a Church what most of us seek to affirm every day – namely – the belief that while life and death can separate us physically for a time from those we love, as Christians, we believe that there is more to this world than we can see and touch. And that profound belief is such because of the reality spoken about by Saint Paul in 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.”
The Feast of All Souls provides us with an opportunity to remember and to continue to support with our prayers all of the holy souls and all of those dear people who have been woven into our lives, who have passed from this world to the next, and who journey to God.
This feast, more than any other in the Church year, allows us to put faces and names on those we honor and for whom we pray. Yet, by that very fact and its connection to our lives, this day and this mass can bring a sadness to our lives. It is never easy to let go of those whom we love. There is never a right time or reason to say good-by. And so, because of that reality, it is essential that we see in this day the heart and substance of our faith as Christians – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
In so many respects, today’s Gospel speaks to our hearts and our struggles far more than it speaks about those who have died. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart. And your souls will find rest for my yolk is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus offers very real words. Notice that he doesn’t white wash life. He doesn’t say that if you’re a good person and if you pray, you will never have a cross to carry or a burden to bear. No. He says “Come to me with your struggles and pain … and I will give you rest” – now – and into eternity.
Our belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus won’t necessarily take away the pain that comes from grief, but it does have the power to help us make sense of why we feel the presence of our loved ones, even in their passing – why we choose to gather in prayer for them today. It affirms what all of us believe, even if we cannot understand – that those whom we have loved and lost are now with us more than ever.
Pope Francis captured the essence of this day best in these words, “There is a deep and indissoluble bond between those who are still pilgrims in this world — us — and those who have crossed the threshold of death and entered eternity. All baptized persons here on earth, the souls in Purgatory and all the blessed who are already in Paradise make one great Family. This communion between earth and heaven is realized especially in the prayers that we offer for one another. … This is the reality of our lives … that accompanies us on the journey of life. … Let us go forward on this journey with trust, with joy … sustained by the help of brothers and sisters who are taking the same path toward heaven; and also by the help of brothers and sisters who are in heaven and are praying to Jesus for us. Go forward on this path with joy!”