Monthly Archives: November 2013

Homily – All Souls 2013

Job 19:1, 23-27
Ps 103       R/.  The Lord is kind and merciful
1 Cor 15:20-23
Jn 12:23-26

Yesterday evening we gathered for the Solemnity of All Saints, that feast where we celebrate all those who’ve gone before us as examples of faithful discipleship and who now live in the full presence of the risen Lord and our merciful Father.  It was a celebration of joy, for we rejoice in the glory they share.  And it was a celebration of hope, for we look forward to the day when we can join them.

This morning, however, we gather to commemorate all the faithful departed.  This day of ‘All Souls’ is a day that the Church has set aside (for nearly a thousand years, now) to pray for those who’ve died, but haven’t yet entered into the joy and glory of heaven.  It’s a day when we gather to pray for those who are in Purgatory.

Despite misunderstandings in recent decades, the Church still teaches the existence of Purgatory, a ‘place’ where we go to be purified of obstacles that prevent us from being fully in the presence of God.  The Catechism says: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (no. 1030).  They’re washing themselves in preparation for the heavenly banquet.

As such, then, this ‘place’ of purification isn’t a bad place; in fact, it’s a beautiful sign of God’s endless mercy.  Though we might not be fully ready to enter into His glory, God doesn’t reject us, but gives us more ‘time’ to be sanctified.  And as the Catechism says, those in Purgatory are saved: they’re not going to Hell; they just don’t yet enjoy the full fruit of their salvation.

Yesterday I wore white as a symbol of our joy in communion with the saints.  Today, as we pray for those who’ve died, I wear violet as a symbol of the sober reality of death and of our communion with those who are doing penance in Purgatory.

And that’s why we’re here today: to pray for the dead, because our prayers help those in Purgatory to be purified by God’s mercy.  That’s why it’s important and virtuous to pray for the dead, and why the Church encourages us to do so throughout the year, but especially today on this day dedicated to it.

This is a strong reminder of the nature of our humanity and of our faith.  Try as we might, we simply cannot escape the reality of death.  Ever since the sin of Adam and Eve, it’s been a necessary consequence of our fallen human nature.

But, death isn’t the end.  Though our bodies die, our lives continue, because God created us in His own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27) for the purpose of communion with Him.  He created us to live in His presence.  But sin ruptured our relationship with God, and cut us off from Him who is our source of life, and so death became a reality.  But God didn’t leave us to die; He sent His only begotten Son save us.

On the Cross, Jesus freed us from our sins.  By rising to new life, He earned for us eternal life.  Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, physical death is not the end for us: we have access to eternal life in God’s presence.  But Christ’s resurrection is only the first fruits (1 Cor 15:20), a pledge of our own resurrection to come.  This is the hope and the joy of our salvation, for we know that [our] Redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and that all will be made alive in Christ (1 Cor 15:22).

And so today, we turn to our Saviour and pray for those who have died but haven’t yet entered into the fullness of His glory: may their sins be forgiven and may they be sanctified by the merits of Christ, so as to enter into the fullness of His glory.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

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Homily – All Saints 2013

Rev 7:2-4, 9-24
Ps 24         R/.  Lord, this is the company of those who seek your face.
1 Jn 3:1-3
Mt 5:1-12

Lord, this is the company of those who seek your face (Psalm refrain).  My brothers and sisters, this is the joy that we celebrate today: the joy of our brothers and sisters who have sought the face of Christ, and who contemplate it day and night in His presence, for today, Solemnity of All Saints, is the feast of all who are in Heaven, whether canonised or not.


All-SaintsAnd we rejoice for two reasons: first, because the ‘saints’ now share in the blessed life that was promised them in Baptism — what we call the ‘beatific vision’ —, and [stand] before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev 7:9) seeing God as He is (1 Jn 3:2).  And as St. Paul reminds us, we are to rejoice with those who rejoice (Rm 12:15).

Second, we rejoice because their reality is our calling!  We, too, as children baptised into Christ have been given the same promise, and we ought to anticipate it with eagerness and joy.  The Solemnity of All Saints reminds us that this is what awaits us if we’re faithful to Christ.  And the great multitude that no one [can] count (Rev 7:9) that St. John describes, should strengthen our confidence and our hope that we too can be numbered among them!  For what they now possess, we hope to have also.

And yet, this hope (of joining the saints in Heaven) isn’t just a hope for the future.  In a very real way — though limited and only partial (incomplete) —, we already share in their joy and reward, because we already share the same life that flows in them.  This is the mystery of the Communion of the Saints: by God’s grace, through Baptism we already share with them in the divine life here and now.  What we hope for, what we await, is nothing more than the completion of what has already begun in us.  That’s why in the second reading St. John says, Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  What we do know is this: […] we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).

Pope Francis spoke of this reality just the other day in Wednesday’s General Audience (30 October 2013).  He spoke about how this sharing already now in the same bonds of Baptism — first with Christ, and through Him, also with each other — is rooted in Christ’s prayer: that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us (Jn 17:21).  As a consequence, then, “the Church in her most profound truth, is communion with God, […] which extends to brotherly communion” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 30 October 2013).  He goes on to say that this reality of communion means that we’re not alone in our faith; that we don’t journey alone; that we’re called to depend and rely on each other in our weakness.  This should be a consolation for us!  And it should be a source of joy!  The joy of having so many baptised brothers and sisters who are journeying with, sustaining us by their prayers and company; and so many who have already reached the goal of Heaven, sustaining us by their prayers and example (Pope Francis).

My brothers and sisters, we are not alone in the faith; we are not alone in the journey toward Christ, and this journey is not an impossible one!  We are in the company of those who seek the face of God; we are in the company of a God who seeks us.  And today’s Solemnity is a reminder that this is the glory to which we are called, and that if we abandon ourselves to God’s grace and mercy, that if we’re faithful to His love like the saints who’ve gone before us, then we too will receive the reward of the beatific vision, of eternal life in the presence of the very God who loves and saves us.  May we be encouraged by the great multitude to constantly turn back tow God and be sanctified by Him.  All you holy men and women, pray for us!  Amen.

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