Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9 Ps 23:1-3, 4-6; 1 Thess4:13-18 and John 11:17-27
I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
After the feast of all saints yesterday, today the Church prays for the souls of those in purgatory, especially for our loved ones, gone before us, waiting to join in the heavenly glory, through purification. The importance of this celebration cannot be overemphasized. Even when November 2 falls on a Sunday, the priests still celebrate three times, the Masses for the Souls of all the Faithful Departed. These celebrations give us an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters in purgatory, to reflect on the meaning of life, the mystery of death, immortality for the righteous, and the promise for hope in the resurrection, promised us by Christ.
Naturally when our loved ones, friends, spouses, family or church member departs from us, it brings us tears, grieve and great sorrow. I felt the same when I lost my mother at the age of 13, in 1983, and my father at the age of 25, in 1993, the eve of my diaconate ordination. Both passed away after brief illnesses. Many of us may also have lost our loved ones. We know how it feels. But all Soul’s celebration, with all the selected scriptural readings today; and preaching from them by our priests and pastors around the world, remind us of the concept of immortality of the soul of a Christian, the power of prayer and purification. Lessons from today’s scriptures sooth our pains and wipe our tears.
When Jesus in today’s Gospel(John 11:17-27) heard that Lazarus his friend was sick, he journey back to Bethany to console the family and pray for Lazarus. On arrival Lazarus was already in the cemetery, where he has been buried. In the overall episode in John 11, Jesus also wept. But importantly, when Martha and Mary seemed to have quarried his delay in arriving, by saying, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died,”’ Jesus promisesaid, Lazarus will rise, because he is the resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).
This message of hope, immortality of a trusting soul, reward of the righteous, the blessings of the faithful, and the overall reassurance by Christ is what we need. On the other hand we must also look at the faith of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. Out of faith they, said to Christ, “but even now I know, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
With God everything is possible. There is nothing that we ask God in prayer that will not be provided, including the forgiveness of our sins, and those gone before us, presently in purgatory. Also the affliction of the righteous, be it in form of illnesses or death may seem to be punishment, but in Wisdom Literature( Job5, Proverbs 3, Sirach 2) especially from what we have heard in the first reading, this is not only divine testing, but; “the souls of the righteous, after death, are peacefully in the hands of God (Wisdom 3:1-9).
No doubt, it is painful, when we see our righteous and loved ones go. Truly, they loved us and their neighbors. They tried to be charitable and shared with family members their life. They supported the church; gave alms and were prophetic with their lives, as much as they could. They were also kind, approachable and compassionate to everyone around, them, in the car, in the air or the sea. Those of them who were in the government saw it as an opportunity to serve their neighbors. Some of them also defended life, the dignity of the human person of every gender and culture. They fought for the place of the poor and the freedom of the oppressed. Yet they are physically gone. The lose of the righteous, our loved ones or any member of the church brings us tears as the departure of Lazarus did to Christ!
But like assurances of Christ, that he is the “life and the resurrection,” Paul’s words in the second reading (1 thess 4:13-18) are very reassuring too. He wants us to pray for those in Purgatory; to encourage one another, go out there, take flowers to their graves and cemeteries, and never to lose hope, nor weep for our loved ones, as those who have no hope in the resurrection of the righteous.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in perfect peace, Amen!