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Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Souls Day

There are many things in this world we can't fully understand and have to let our faith help us to truly "get it." Death is one of the great mysteries of human existence.  There is a great movie about an autistic young adult named Temple Grandin, who upon attending a funeral can't help but ask the question: "where do they go?"  She knows that the person she knew wasn't in that casket anymore, that the immortal soul that animated those "remains" was somewhere else.
Today, as we remember all the faithful departed, those who have persevered in their faith unto the end of their earthly journey, our faith answers that question ("where do they go?") in a mysterious way - not completely, but only partially: "The souls of the just are in the hand of God."  This may not be the perfect answer we wish for, but that is what we have.  Jesus says "I will not lose anything that the Father gives me, and I will raise them up on the last day."  
This is what we believe, and in many ways it is the essence of our faith.  Everything the Catholic Church teaches only makes sense with our eyes looking toward God and toward our eternity with Him in heaven.  If we aren't making decisions with our heart and mind in the clouds, then odds are we will be making the wrong decisions.  Saint Paul expounds upon this further when he says we have to live in this world like we don't belong here.  Today he tell us we are already dead by our Baptism.  We die in Jesus.  We die to this world and all the vanities and decorations that don't make sense in view of eternity.  We have to remember heaven!  One way to do this is read C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce (which is heaven & hell, where humanity is divorced from itself and its creator), or Till We Have Faces.  These will keep our eyes up.
So we as Christians our different, very different from our culture.  We must not be afraid of death, nor forget to keep our heart & mind in heaven.  We look at death and almost mock it, as Saint Paul calls it just "falling asleep," and says "where O Death is your victory, where is your sting?"
My grandma's only fear was dying alone, without anyone around her.  Others fear dying in front of another person.  Still others are afraid to face sins from many years ago.  Some of us might be afraid of leaving people behind, or projects unfinished.  But none of us should be afraid of death, because it really is the greatest invitation.
Think of the infant child in its mother's womb: it is so content, having everything it could possibly want and need: warmth, food, protection.  But after the traumatic experience of birth is forced upon it, it is opened up to amazing experiences, opportunities, and blessings that it never could have foreseen.  In fact, parts of what God had prepared in that infant from the beginning (such as lungs, eyes, and mouth) only make sense after that great transition.  Death is like that for us: traumatic, painful, unwelcomed.  But only through that door are we able to be welcomed to live on a much higher plane, and parts of us (our immortal soul that stays strong as our bodies fall apart, and those longings for something greater) only make sense when we are placed back into God's hands.
Yesterday we celebrated that perfection of human destiny when we celebrated All Saints Day, rejoicing at the Church made whole in heaven.  Today we look at those who are a work in progress, even after death, as they are molded more into their perfect selves in Purgatory.  I think we might forget that these two other parts of the One Body of Christ: the Church victorious and the Church suffering, are present with us who are one in Jesus - especially here at Mass.  We pray for the poor souls who are overcoming their residual selfishness so they can truly love, and we recall the Saints and as for their prayers.  Today, preparing our hearts to receive the Body of Jesus in the Eucharist and share a foretaste of the glory of heaven, let us intercede for those family and friends who had died in faith, that the Lord will look upon them with Mercy and lead them to His Kingdom of Glory.

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