Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
When a person dies, we can see the following situations:
- All the weaknesses and faults of the one who died are forgotten, at least ignored, by his family and all who knew him. They talk about all the good things that happened in his life and all the virtues he had. They know that all his faults would be buried with him.
- The family of the deceased keeps all his pictures so that they can review them, and remember how he lived, and specially remember how he loved them and how they loved him.
A greater picture, however, is being presented to us by St. Paul:
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). And this comes with a promise: “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Rom 6:5).
The reason why we celebrate ALL SOULS DAY is not particularly because they have died, but because “we too might live in the newness of life.” We pray for those who have died: for our loved ones, our friends and for all, for those in purgatory. It is good to pray for them so that in due time God, in His mercy, will take them to His Kingdom in heaven. It is also good to pray for them so that, even those who are no longer remembered will also be included in our prayers. Then we ourselves will benefit from those prayers because we get in touch with God and we get in touch with this suffering Church in purgatory.
Their suffering is not a suffering of despair, but of purification. In hell the suffering is great and unending because there is so much enmity and hate; their suffering is due to the loss of God. This is even one of our expressions here on earth: when we see a situation of sin or enmity in relationships, we just say, “go to hell,” or “I don’t want to live with you in hell.” As in hell, here on earth the greatest suffering is not particularly poverty or physical pain, but the absence of God, the absence of love, the absence of hope, and the indifference among neighbors. However, “those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect” (Wis 3: 9).
The souls in purgatory suffer but they are happy and full of hope for in due time they will be in that Kingdom prepared for the elect. There is sure hope because God Himself is preparing them for that Kingdom, where God, and only God, will be their joy.
Our Christian reverence for the dead means: that we believe that they are alive in the Lord and that we are spiritually united with them; that someday we will meet again in heaven in the company of God, Mary and all the Angels and Saints; that from heaven they intercede for us before God, in our needs and difficulties in life here on earth.
In the midst of sorrow at the death of a love one, we must show strength in faith and hope in the life promised us by our Savior. We must manifest our love and closeness toward the sick and the elderly. We must be able to speak to the sick person about his health conditions so that he may be prepared to offer himself to the Lord, the great healer and the Way to the Father. We must not wait till the last hour to call the priest to bring the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to the elderly and the sick, for this sacrament is the grace given by Jesus to His Church to strengthen the sick and the dying in their condition. We must not be afraid to pray with the sick, the elderly and the dying as this gives them the strength in their hope to be with the Lord in the second life. As Jesus said: “this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (Jn 6: 40).
It is for these that we celebrate this Feast of the Faithful Departed. It is also for these that we celebrate Christian funeral rites for our loved ones and friends, that we visit their graves and put flowers on them, that we request Mass to be celebrated for them on different occasions. All these we do in faith, in hope and in love for the Lord, who promised that “everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37).