Homily for Sunday, November 2: All Souls Day

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Homily for ALL SOULS DAY, November 2, 2015
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Why do we pray for those who have died?
What do we pray for those who have died?

At the heart of all our worship as Catholic Christians,
at the heart of it all is: remembering… 

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist
we remember Christ, and all he did for us;
we remember how he suffered, died and rose for us;
and in word and sacrament,
we remember what he did at table with his friends
on the night before he died.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, then,
we remember someone who has died:
we remember our brother, Jesus. 
And every time we celebrate the Eucharist
we remember others who have died, too.

We remember our brothers and sisters
who have gone to their rest in the hope of the resurrection
and all who have died in God’s mercy
praying they will be welcomed into the light of God’s face.

We remember especially our brothers and sisters in Christ
but not only them but all the departed, too,
praying that through the mercy and love of God
every one of them
will enjoy the light and peace of God, forever,
that, as Jesus prayed in the gospel today, 
that not one of them will be lost. 

Of course, when we pray for those who have died
we remember first those whom we loved the most,
those whom we miss the most.

When I’m at the altar at Mass
and offer the prayer for those who have died, 
my heart seldom fails to remember my mother and father:
others, too – but always them.
I’m sure there are names
that come to your mind and heart as well. 
But why do we pray for those who have died
and what do we pray for them?

Our knowledge of human frailty
and our faith in God’s mercy
teach us that when we die, we might not be quite ready,
God might not yet be finished
with making us ready for eternal life.

Our whole life on earth is a journey to that dwelling place
Christ has prepared and reserved for us in his Father’s house.
Sometimes on that journey
we stay right on the path that leads us home
and sometimes we take short cuts or make detours
or even turn around and walk in the other direction!

All of us always  need the Lord to shepherd us
not just through our lives, but from death into life...

So it might be, it might even be likely,
that at the end of life our rough edges
might need some buffing and polishing,
some smoothing, some finishing touches.

The Church has long taught that after death,
those not quite ready for heaven
may need some further purification or “purgation"
and thus the term, purgatory.

But we might have a distorted or even a false picture of purgatory.
It’s not, as some might visualize it, some
“flaming concentration camp on the outskirts of hell.” *
It’s not God’s last chance to make us suffer
it is, rather, God’s final grace,
the last of all the “second chances” God gave us in our lives.

St. Catherine spoke beautifully of the purification of purgatory as
“God’s love burning the soul until it is finally wholly aflame 
-- with the love of God.”

That flame is not punishing, it is loving.

That’s the fire mentioned in today’s first reading: 
As gold in the furnace, God will prove us, purify us,
and take us to himself… we shall shine…
and we shall abide forever with God in love… 

If there is pain in purgatory,
it is the pain of longing to be with God,
the pain of longing to be with the beloved,
an intense yearning
to be made worthy of the joy of heaven,
the peace Jesus won for us:
the desire to enter into the light of God’s face.

So, we pray for those who have gone before us
that God bring to completion the good work begun in their lives
while they were still with us.
We cannot know how time is measured in this purification.
Perhaps it will take years
for us to finally and fully realize God’s love for us
-and how unloving in return we often were.

Or perhaps, in God’s time, it will it will take but a moment
to purge, to purify us of the sin
of taking God’s love and the love of others for granted.

We do not know how long
and so we pray for those gone before us
as they wait to see the “light of God’s face.”

And we pray for all who have died.
Remembering that nothing is impossible for God.
We entrust all the departed to God
who knows how to make even the hardest of hearts
ready to receive his mercy.

Today, and through this month of November, 
we remember those who have gone to their rest
in the hope of rising again and all the departed... 

As you came into church you saw the scrolls
with the names of all who were buried from our parish
since last All Souls Day.

And in the scrolls of your hearts,
you have your own names of people to prayer for.

Every time we come to the altar
we remember those who have died
beginning with Jesus, our brother, who died for us and rose
to open the doors to his Father’s house
where he has gone to prepare a place for each of us.

As we remember his death and resurrection in the Eucharist,
may this sacrament nourish us to live lives worthy
of the dwelling place prepared and waiting for us
already know the peace of God forever. 

*Leonard Foley, O.F.M. in Believing in Jesus


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  1. You are so very welcome! I'm glad to know you still stop by my page. Be sure of my prayers.

  2. I so appreciate your inspiring posts. Blessings galore.


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