Today the Catholic Church celebrates, All Souls, the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. The note following the Psalm for the Prayer for the Morning in the Magnificat says that this commemoration “is rooted in the Church’s strong conviction that we, the living, have a serious responsibility in love to accompany with prayer those who have died but who must yet complete the purification preparation every human being needs to be able to dwell in the all-encompassing love of God.”
Perhaps. And certainly on this day, as I do every day, I pray for those who have died. I pray particularly for those who have died in the last year, but also those family members and friends who have died in years past, whose loss I still feel.
But as I reflect on the Mass readings for this day, it seems to me the day is as much about all of us as it is of those who have died. As we pray for our dead, the day also invites us (as we move toward the end of another liturgical year, where so much of the focus is on death) to focus on the reality of resurrection. The first reading from Wisdom tells us that “the souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them” and that “the faithful shall abide with him in love.” One of the options for the second Mass reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans promises that if we have died with Chirst, we shall also live with him and that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life.” In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus states firmly that it is the will of his Father that “I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” In the Communion antiphon for Mass today, we hear Jesus’ strong proclamation of words that so often bring me comfort: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, he will live. Anyone who lives and believes in me, will not die.”
As we move toward winter, the nights are longer, the days are colder, the leaves fall from the trees and much in the garden is dying. But amidst the dark, the cold and the signs of decay and death, is the promise of resurrection. The promise that we will live in union with our God forever.