The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Psalm: 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
Romans 5:5-11 6:3-9
Our Scriptural wisdom has many descriptions to capture the event we all know as death, which is arrived to through a process of dying. Dying can be a time that brings fear of the unknown into the heart of the person whose life is expiring; or it can be a time of solace and comfort to the loved ones of a person because death brings long-term suffering and pain to a close [Rev 21:4].
In the Jewish Testament, there is an ambiguity about the details of the "hereafter" because the Scriptural testimony reflects centuries of development of thought about death, and because of the many different cultural and historical influences that contributed to a popular understanding of death. In today’s Jewish funeral prayers, there is a confidence that the soul of the deceased person will be "covered in the wings of the All-Merciful One forever," while "binding his/her soul to the bond of life" and resting in peace. These Jewish prayers echo our reading for today from the Book of Wisdom, "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. (Wisdom 3:9)"
Our Christian tradition continues to place death in the context of the Resurrection of Jesus, "If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him (Romans 6:9)." [See also: 1Thes 4:13-14]. Paul was reflecting the conviction of the first Christians, who had been nourished by Jesus’ own words to them: In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to the multitude of John’s sixth chapter, whom he has nourished in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, "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 6:40)"
As we put aside many of the day’s regular activities to remember our deceased family members and friends on this Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, let us ask God to fill our hearts with the hope that unites us across the threshold of death. It is the hope that God’s promises to his faithful, gathered in the Body of Christ by baptism, will be fulfilled for each of us, as they are for all of our departed faithful.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.