Homily for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
There is something that uniquely binds us together as a human family – all of us have either experienced the loss of a loved one or will experience a loss at some point. Dealing with the grief of losing one who is close to us can be extremely difficult. The closer someone is to us, the more challenging it is for us to enter into that grieving and suffering.
It’s hard to say goodbye to someone that you love so dearly. It’s hard to imagine life without someone who has been such an important part in shaping who you are. Those are perfectly normal sentiments to feel. And, depending on the circumstances of death, it can be a challenge to see where the Lord was in the midst of that tremendous loss for us. Yet, as Christians, our faith teaches us that the Lord is there with us in the midst of loss, even if we can’t see Him or feel Him. Sometimes, it can take us a while to see where the Lord was in the midst of that experience. But we can never stop turning to God and asking Him to be with us there. We have to keep inviting Him into our broken hearts, our doubts, our confusions, our fears.
The death of a loved one will always leave a void in our hearts. But, we have hope that one day that void will again be filled. We have that hope because we have faith that our loved ones are with God and that we also will one day be together with Him in Eternity.
As Christians, we believe that death does not end life, it simply changes it. Our loved ones who have gone before us are very much still with us – they’re still a part of our lives. Because of that, we can continue our relationships with them. Even though their earthly pilgrimages have ended, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still with us. If there is something that we wanted to say to them but never had the opportunity, we still have the chance to say it. If we needed to offer forgiveness but couldn’t, we still can. If we needed to ask for their forgiveness, it is still possible to receive it. We can still tell them that we love them and ask them to watch over us. We can still share with them our joys, our struggles, our triumphs. How is this possible? Because we have faith, we believe that they are dwelling with the Lord in Heaven.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. If you have ever been to a funeral Mass where I was the presider, you know that I read this passage at every one of them. This moment in Jesus’ life is one of great agony. In this prayer, He expresses to the Father His desire that all of those who have come to know Him may be united with Him in Heaven. And Jesus desires that because He loves those who follow Him. By offering Himself on the Cross, Jesus shows us the lengths that He is willing to go to make that promise and that desire a reality. He offers His very life for our salvation. We can be confident today that the Lord will be faithful to that promise for all of us, that He will be merciful to us and welcome us into the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the promise that He gives us. And that is the same promise that He has given our loved ones who have gone before us in faith.
So, on this All Souls Day, may we continue thank God for the gift of those members of our families who have died. As we approach Jesus in the Eucharist this day, may our prayer be that all of our deceased loved ones continue to enjoy the Eternal Jerusalem with Him. And let us pray that the souls of those family members and friends and the souls of all the faithful departed, may, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.