Commemoration of the faithful departed also known as: All Souls Day
Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy
Wisdom 3:1-9 – Pslam 23 – Romans 5: 5-11 or 6:3-9 – John 6:37-40
St. Augustine of Hippo: “I believe in order to understand; and I understand the better to believe.”
The Church gives us these two feasts – yesterday’s ‘All Saints Day’ and today’s ’All Souls Day’ in order to give us hope. First, she holds up those valiant heroes – the saints of old – to give us so many models to follow. But, then, realizing that we all ‘fall short of the Glory of God,’ She gives us this commemoration of the faithful departed to seal up the breach that may exist between our life here on earth and our hoped-for life in Heaven. You have to give the ancients credit for putting these two celebrations together since we all need to come to grips with the reality of death and the very real existence of sin in our lives.
One of my most favorite scriptures was in the Mass yesterday – 1st John 3:1ff “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
That paraphrases the old-time line: “God don’t make junk; he ain’t finished with me yet.”
So, in two days time the wisdom of the Church shines out: here is the model to follow (yesterday’s feast) and here, today, is the hope that even though we stumble and fall (over and over. Again and again) God will still work with us to bring us fully into His presence.
In C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce” he gives us a pretty good glimpse into this process of ‘purgation.’ We join a bus that is just leaving ‘the gray town’ – a place between earth and heaven which is neither one or the other but just ‘gray.’ After a whirl-wind ride the people are dropped off right at the edge of heaven. Even though they can see far beyond the hills to what is called, ‘deep heaven’ the reality of this edge of heaven is even more than they can endure: the grass is so real that it hurts their thin-skinned feet to walk on. One person sees a beautiful, red apple just fallen from the tree but can’t even pick it us because its reality is too, too real for him to lift.
Then, off in the distance we can see what appears to be angels coming toward the group. Lewis writes, ‘if they were clothed, their clothing appeared to be such a part of their actual being as to not be noticed; if they naked, their nakedness was so natural that it almost appeared to be clothing.’
These ‘angels’ came to greet the new arrivals and to help them on their journey to ‘deep heaven.’ “Don’t worry,” one said, “you’ll start to thicken up along the way as we make our journey into deep heaven. We’re here to help you.”
However, many of the souls couldn’t even deal with this momentary hardship and started to complain that they were hurting and eventually made the decision to get back on the bus and return to the ‘gray town.’
When asked what would become of them, one of the angels said, “they will eventually go back to the gray town and then begin their slide into hell. All their past lives – even those things that they thought to be joys and happiness will take on a sadness and pain and they will see that their entire lives were always leading them into Hell. On the other hand, those of you who stay on the ‘path to deep heaven’ will eventually find out that even those times of pain and suffering are beginning to take on an aura of holiness as you realize that your entire life was leading you to this journey into the fullness of deep heaven.
Lewis places this scene in a way that transcends time and space and inadvertently gives us an insight into what Purgatory might be like.
Bottom line: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This gives me great hope. Amen!