The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Romans 5:5-11 or 6:3-9
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed occurs each year on November 2. For most parish priests and deacons, it must seem like one more funeral liturgy, without a particular, named person to be commended to the love and mercy of God. This is understandable because in some, big-city parishes, four or five funerals in a week is not unusual.
There is a paradox in the celebration of Christian death, it is that death is a universal experience of humanity, nevertheless, each and every person will experience his and her death as the singular event of one’s lifetime.
There is nothing theoretical about death and dying: It’s always individual, in-the-moment, and unique. Theorizing about it may be appropriate for academicians, philosophers, Priests, Rabbis, Mullahs, Ministers, Buddhist Nuns and Monks, and those whose belief in a religious or spiritual tradition is unassailable.
But if you want to know, really know about death and dying, spend time with someone who is experiencing it. Not quite the same level of knowledge as being directly involved in it, but significantly more relevant than theorizing.
–Stan Goldberg, November 16, 2010, End of Life blog.
We, who call ourselves Passionists, embrace the paradox of a death common to all humanity, yet uniquely individual. We do so because the death of Jesus, the Christ, as reconciliation overcomes the separation we experience in our individuality.
As Paul writes in today’s second reading, Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Romans 5,10)
We have been reconciled with God through the death of Jesus, and this reconciliation occurs even among those who are at enmity with one another, while we were enemies, we were reconciled.
Jesus embraced his death in order to embrace our dying. He rose so that we might rise with Him to an eternal life of reconciliation with God, spared of the burden of our sins. For 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. (John 6:39)
Therefore, let us also seek the real reconciliation with those with whom we are at enmity. Jesus has called us to a common destiny, may we be able to realize a common interest in living our lives as a reconciled humanity.
We are celebrating this feast in so many of the traditions of our families…we will visit our cemeteries, we will retell the stories of our loved ones, we will place candles on family altars and before the pictures of our loved ones, and we will remember them with the attendance at a parish Mass. Many parishes will have distributed envelopes upon which we can inscribe the names of those we wish remembered at the parish Masses for the dead.
Let us remember those whom we loved most in our lifetimes, and let us seek reconciliation with anyone with whom we have not yet realized the bond of reconciliation given us by the saving death of Jesus.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Office of Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.