Reflection for Thursday, November 2, 2017: Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed Souls (All Souls).

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Burke-Sullivan, Eileen
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And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.|These words, taken from one of the Gospel passages recommended for this day, captures the essence of our deep faith about God's mercy and redemption. There are three short experiences that have dominated my prayer for the days that I have been preparing this reflection. They have opened to me some of the key teachings of our Christian faith about death, about God's mercy and about the communion of saints "both here and in eternity.|The first experience is of a funeral last week of a colleague and friend's Mother. The family this woman gave birth to are now a large Irish clan, with lots of in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The music, the scriptures read, the prayers of the Church proclaimed confidence that this good and loving woman had lived her Christian faith with God's help in Jesus. She would now enjoy the fruit of God's will that no one given to Jesus would be lost. |But still the family and friends grieved because their mother was parted from them for a little while. |The Apostles, too, grieved, deeply grieved, Jesus' death "and while Jesus gently challenged the disciples on the Road to Emmaus "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" we know that he understood, for he himself had grieved the death of his friend Lazarus. Grief is part of our humanity and is the painful experience of loss. The Church wants us to know and remember that grief is part of our human life, and must be entered, suffered and allowed to disclose to us the depths of our love. All of us are called to care for the grieving. To support them with food, with prayer, with listening and with tender attentiveness, seeing that they are comforted in the bitterness of loss.|The second experience that kept coming to mind was a memory of a funeral for a very elderly woman who had outlived many of her own family and friends, and only a handful of generous parishioners came to the funeral. I was there as music minister and, with the pastor, sang the funeral and accompanied her body to the cemetery. As I was getting back in my own car after all the rites, I was deeply touched by a sense of the presence of my own mother who had been dead several years at that time. I asked her why she was coming to me and seemed to hear her say that she knew I was singing at this funeral and wanted to come welcome this new member of the saints into God's presence. As I was helping to send, so was she helping to receive, and I knew, finally, that my Mother was still alive and truly herself.|It is a work of mercy to care for and bury the bodies of the dead.|There is a communion of saints "here and hereafter that prays for, loves and supports us. We are both members who give and members who receive from that communion. We must not neglect to pray for the dead. Nor neglect to have confidence that they are praying for us "and in both cases, we are giving each other the life of God, as God intends we should.|The third moment that touches my heart is the memory of a little blessing ceremony that my husband's and my family celebrated six months after my husband's sudden death. It was a warm June day this past summer when we went to the cemetery to bless Michael's new gravestone. A Jesuit friend joined us to offer a blessing of the whole Church. He spoke very gently of the fact that right behind Michael's grave "just to the west, was the grave of his own godparents. I had not known that human tie, but I did feel again deeply, the bonds that we have among the living and the dead. We are alive to God and God is fully present to all of us "how can we not be alive to one another?|On this chilly November day here in the north, it is well to remember the great warmth of the Church in Australia, in and Latin America, the suffering of the Church in China and Nigeria, the needs of the Church in Northern Europe - everywhere Christ's Body alive here on earth, and in the universe of God's mercy beyond this life. Whether in a stage of purification and preparation for God's glory, or in the stage of bliss that attends experiencing Christ face to face God wills that not one . . . be lost.|We living and deceased, together with Jesus, are the Communion of Saints.|Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting? Yes, we must grieve the transition, but we must allow the Communion of Saints to be real for us "as real as my Jesuit friend's compassion, as real as the grief of my colleague and her family, and real as the empty chair in my dining room that points to a filled chair in God's banquet of Eternal Life.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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