Celebrating and Commemorating Our Faithful Departed
Readings: 1st: Ish 25, 6-9; Ps 27, 1.4.7-9. 13-14 2nd: Rom 5, 5-11; Gos: Mk 15, 33-39; 16, 1-6
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
This Sunday is the 31st in the church’s of ordinary time. Having celebrated the solemnity of All Saints yesterday, today, the holy mother church in her wisdom gives us yet another opportunity to celebrate another group of “unsung heroes” of our faith who are believed to still be on a journey towards the heavenly Jerusalem. In a special way also, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on our Christian journey towards the eternal city of God. Today also, we are invited to pray especially for this suffering church (ecclesia penitens) still on transit. That is, souls in Purgatory. All Souls Day commemorates the faithful departed, and is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins and from attachment to mortal sins cannot immediately attain the beatific vision in Heaven, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass.
These include religious men and women who burnt out their lives both in their home and foreign lands fanning the faith of millions of people into flame for God; those pious Christian mothers and fathers who despite the burden of family life had, and spent so much time loving and serving God through humanity for the sake of the gospel; those Christian youths and children who employed the strength and zeal of their youth effectively for the evangelization of others, who defiled worldliness of life and choose to live a very pious Christian life. They were castigated, called names, despised and even killed. They lived and bore good witness to Christ in all the continents of our world. They wrote volumes in their silent witness on earth but their testimonies are being echoed and recounted in heaven by angels before the holy of holies. Their number is so great and their deeds so vast that one can employ the same words of John about Jesus (that: “If all Jesus did were to be recorded, the whole world as a book will not contain them” (Jh 22, 25)), to describe them. Indeed, no book of the canonized or the blessed on earth can contain their names and deeds. However, we pray and hope their names will one day be contained the book of life in heaven when they finally arrive their destination.
Once a wise king visited a very wealthy man where he was received in a beautifully decorated hall and given a wonderful dinner of various delicious meals. Afterwards, the wealthy father of the house came forth and one after the other introduced his wife, three handsome and brilliant sons, two beautiful charming and elegant daughters, and of course showed him round his state of the arts mansion. In appreciation of his hospitality, the king thanked them so much. However, he asked the man: “Who cooked these wonderful dishes? The man proudly responded: “Of course, my cooks!” Again, the king asked: “Who decorated this beautiful hall?” Once more, the man proudly responded: “Surely, my maids!” Finally, the king made a request: “Can I meet them?” and the man gave a nod and sent for them. When they arrived, the king stood up, and exclaimed: “Indeed, here they come, my unsung heroes for this night.” He stood up, embraced them and offered each one of them gifts, good enough to set them up in life. The King was wise indeed, to have recognized the unsung cooks and maids who made the night what it was. In like manner the church today displays her wisdom by recognizing and celebrating our unsung faithful departed heroes. They are the under dogs of our faith, they were the silent preachers who can be compared to those who work behind the curtains and cameras of a movie theatre to decorate the artists, setup the stage, prompt, direct and shut the films without they themselves appearing in the movie or film. We remember them for their humility, dexterity and faithfulness, and pray the almighty to reward them by opening the doors of heaven unto them.
Our first reading today from Isaiah captures perfectly well the essence of today’s celebration of All Souls. On the mountain of the Lord all souls are expected to gather for the great banquet. This is especially the souls of the faithful departed. This banquet is one meant for those who have washed themselves in the blood of the lamb (Rev 7, 14). It was called by the Lord to honor those who have responded faithfully to his call. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that our hope in Jesus will not fail us because: “God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the holy spirit who is God’s gift to us.” This is why we celebrate all souls today. They hope they had in Jesus will not fail them, and ours will not fail us too. They heard about Christ, accepted him and believed in him. So, today we pray earnestly that nothing will prevent them from reaching their home land where a rich banquet is being prepared for them. Today’s celebration must strength our hope and faith that one day we too hope to be close to God.
The gospel of Mark recounts in a most dramatic fashion the events of the last moments of Jesus. The three o’clock event is very important as we commemorate and celebrate All Souls Day today. The reason is quite simple. It was at this point in time that the gates of hell shut against souls were shattered and the souls granted freedom. It is an hour of redemption and liberation. It an hour when all souls being held captive by the power of darkness were liberated by Christ Jesus as the psalmist captures it: “He has broken the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron asunder” (Ps. 107, 16). At this hour the gates were pulled down and salvation was finally granted the souls of all the faithful departed. It was the hour when God gave kind admittance to all souls. This is why on this day we must unite in prayers for them to have their full liberation in order to get to their final destination where they in turn will intercede for us. It is an opportunity to for us to pray for souls in purgatory, that God might look upon them with mercy and cleans them of any taint of sin (2 Macc 12, 42-46) so that they might pass on to their saintly abode. We need therefore to knock even harder today on the doors of heaven for their sake. Surely, God will hear our prayers if we like the psalmist cry out on their behalf: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.” Eternal rest give unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them!
Peace be with you all!!