GOSPEL REFLECTION: All Souls' Day
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
2nd November 2014
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
There is a tinge of sadness in my heart as I reflect on this Sunday's Gospel. This Sunday's Liturgy reminds of us of our loved ones who have passed on before us. We remember whom we love the most and whom we miss the most. When we lose a somebody we love so much,the pain will always linger. We can never move on. We only have to deal with it everyday of our lives. As we celebrate "All Souls Day," we commemorate our departed loved ones. Remembering them is like bringing back all the memories - the time we spent with them, all the joys, the laughter as well as the pains and struggles we've shared with them - all these can never be recreated. And that makes it all the more sad. But I find consolation in the very words of our Lord Jesus in today's Gospel. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light." It is an assurance that Jesus knew our hurts, our pains and troubles. And He invites us to come to Him and seek rest.
Today, not only that we remember our dead but also we are being reminded of our future - our final destination i.e. one day we too shall die. The inevitable will also come to us whether we like it or not. That is part of human existence , we were born, we live and we shall die. Today we are being reminded that the body is not immortal. "Memento mori," it is a Latin phrase which means "Remember that you have to die" or simply "Remember death!" The phrase is intended to remind us the transient and transitory nature of all earthly reality, our own very selves not excluded. On Ash Wednesday as the priest imposes ashes on our forehead , we were reminded of this reality as he said,"You are dust and unto dust you shall return." Do we really need to be reminded of this? Yes, actually we should be reminded of this most of the times, that we may not be distracted with things that are not essential on our journey, things that are passing but that we may focus more on the things that will last and that are immortal.
Every time I do funerals , I always remind the bereaved family that death is not the end but rather beginning. It is not defeat but victory. Death is only a parting for a little while - not a good-bye but only a see you later. One day we shall all meet again. And we believe that our beloved departed brothers and sisters are in good hand. Our faith tells us that wherever they are, they are enjoying eternal bliss with all the angels and saints. This is the promise our Lord Jesus gave to us. John 14:2 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you."
Life is a journey.It is a journey that begins at birth and end with death that brings us to eternity. Therefore, we are only like pilgrims here on earth. Death is necessary for us to achieve higher kind of life. John 12:24 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." We are meant to be born out of this world to a higher level of our existence. Our life here on earth is but our preparation to a life eternal.. And so what must we do? Our Liturgy this Sunday reminds us to desire for the highest goal which is heaven. We can only achieve it by the life we live. Surely, nobody's perfect. But perfection should be our goal. Yesterday, we celebrated "All saints' Day" - it is a reminder of what should be our ultimate goal i.e. perfection. Saint Augustine puts it powerfully , he said, "The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied." We should therefore do our best to intensify our desire and longing for God. In doing so, we affect and inspire the lives of other people too.
Allow me to end my reflection with a story:
A story is told of a man dying of AIDS at a hospital in Washington that was run by Missionaries of Charity. The man decided to receive the Sacrament of Baptism , and so he summoned a priest. But the priest said, "Before I baptize you I want to ask for some expression of faith from you." The dying man said to the priest, "All I know is that I am unhappy, and these sisters who are attending to me are very happy, even when I curse them and spit on them. Yesterday, I finally asked them why they were so happy despite everything i did to them. And they replied 'Jesus' Jesus makes them happy and that when they serve the needy like me , they see Jesus," and the man explained , "I want this Jesus so I can finally be happy."
While here on earth, let us be emissaries of the joy of Christ that we may affect the lives of others. Together we go hand in hand in our journey from here to eternity.