November 2, 2016
by Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
(All Souls)
Lectionary: 668

Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalms 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Romans 5:5-11 or Romans 6:3-9
John 6:37-40

Praying Ordinary Time

It is hard and definitely not spontaneous for us to consider death as a natural part of life, and yet it is. The truth is that being conceived is a “terminal condition” and it is only a matter of when that condition will reach its point of closure. Thank God, except in rare occasions, these two ends of the life span are neither contiguous nor very close to each other, so in between we develop human bonds of family, friends, fellow workers... and this makes separation all the harder to consider, let alone to experience. We find it hard to say “good bye”, even if in faith we believe that we are only saying “so long”. We know this in our heads, but it is not our heads that hurt, it is our hearts. In the presence or anticipation of death everything darkens up in our hearts and we simply cannot offer head answers to heart questions.

We can only be truly consoled by trusting in the Lord’s words: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even if they die, will live [Jn. 11: 25]. It is in this faith and trust in God’s goodness that we pray for the deceased. Yet there is a nagging question nested in the back of our minds: “Does this do the deceased any good? They died days, years, decades ago and their decisive judgment took place in their final encounter with God. Why pray now?”

When we look or think back in time, we recall things –like the death of a loved one– that for us are past. But the category of time belongs only here with us, because to God everything is present. In ways that we may find hard to understand –and this was the subject of a very heated debate between Jesuit and Dominican theologians toward the end of the sixteenth century– our prayers of today were present to God when our loved ones died and our intercession was already “effective” at that time. This we accept in faith. So it makes sense to have a special day –today– when we pray for those who have preceded us in faith.

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