Nov 2: All Souls Day

All Souls, 02.11.2018
Isaiah 25:6-9 / Romans 5:5-11 / John 6:37-40

One of the most emotionally charged occasions that we often come across would be at a funeral.

The death of a person, and more so a loved one, is usually accompanied with grief and sorrow and tears.

Words of condolences are few and short because no amount of words, no matter how profound can bring a dead person back to life.

And if words are to be used, then they must be carefully chosen and it is certainly not a time to take the matter lightly or make a joke out of it. But things can go wrong, unintentionally of course.

Like this one about the florist’s mistake. On opening his new shop, the owner received a bouquet of flowers. He became dismayed on reading the enclosed card because it read “Deepest Condolences”.

While he was wondering about the message, his phone rang. It was from the florist, apologizing for having sent the wrong card.

“Oh, it’s alright,” said the man. “I am a businessman and I understand how these things can happen.”

The florist said, “But I accidentally sent your card to the funeral wake.”

The man asked, “Oh! What did it say?”

The florist replied, “Congratulations on your new location.”

Certainly it was an awkward mistake, unintentional and no one would be laughing at it.

Nonetheless, it may reflect in a certain way, our hope for a departed loved one.

We hope and we pray that our departed loved ones would be in heaven and enjoy eternal rest, and are at peace.

As we would often hear at funeral wakes – he/she is in a better place, a better location, so to speak.

And that’s the purpose of coming for Mass on All Souls Day. We pray that God will grant our departed loved ones eternal rest in His presence.

But things may not be as simple as we would like it to be, as in that when we die we will go straight to heaven.

Because the reality is that as in life, so it is in death.

We who live in this world would know how much we can be attached to this world.

We are attached not just to things but more so to our loved ones and to the relationships that we have built in this world.

Even at our last breath, we may not want to let go easily of our life and detach ourselves from our loved ones.

Even though the Lord of life is calling us to the eternal light, we can’t help but keep glancing at the lights of this world that we have shared with our loved ones.

My father passed away in June, just three months before he could celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary with my mum and the family.

He had hoped and talked about it before his death but he didn’t get to live to celebrate it.

Although he died peacefully, we also know that he had some earthly hopes that could not be fulfilled.

And so this year’s All Souls Day is especially meaningful for my family and me as we pray that my father will rest in peace.

Similarly, you too have come to pray for your departed loved ones that they will rest in peace.

As the Church teaches us, “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation. But after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Yes, we must pray for our departed loved ones, as well as for those who are forgotten or who have no one to pray for them.

More than just moving to a “new location”, we pray that they will see the eternal light and set on a new direction, a direction towards the God of life who will give them eternal rest.

And even as we pray, may we even while on earth, set our direction towards God and find life and love, peace and joy.

In our modern world, the advancement of technology is supposed to make our lives easier and more convenient.

But it seems that technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. (Aldous Huxley)
It is said that men have become the tools of their tools. (Henry David Thoreau). In other words, instead of making use of technology, it is becoming the other way round – technology is making use of us.

The expression of this is in the two phrases we use almost every day: “I am busy” and “I have no time”.

In a way, we envy those who have passed on, especially when we pray for them in these words: Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

So we pray that the departed will rest in peace. We hope that they will rest in peace.

But are they really resting in peace? And that is the question that we are to think about as we join the Church to commemorate the faithful departed on this day.

This commemoration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to sin and from attachment to mortal sins.

They cannot immediately attain the joys of heaven, and they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven. This sanctification is carried out in Purgatory.

There is the practice that the entire month of November became associated with prayer for the departed; lists of names of those to be remembered were being placed in the proximity of the altar on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered.

A legend is given by Peter Damiani in his “Life of St. Odilo”: a pilgrim returning from the Holy Land was cast by a storm on a desolate island. A hermit living there told him that amid the rocks was a cleft that was “communicating” with purgatory, from which perpetually rose the groans of tortured souls. The hermit also claimed he had heard the demons complaining of the efficacy of the prayers of the faithful, in rescuing their victims.

It may be just a legend, but the truth of it is that our prayers for the faithful departed has its efficacy in helping them to purify themselves for heaven.

Yes, souls in Purgatory need our prayers otherwise today will just be a day we remember our departed loved ones and nothing else.

On All Souls Dy, we not only remember the departed, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory.

We do this by coming to church for Mass and by visiting cemetery or columbarium and offering a prayer for the souls in Purgatory.

For the parish, we will go over later to our parish columbarium to bless the niches of the departed as an expression of asking for God’s blessings on them so that they will be purified and gain entry into heaven.

Praying for the departed is a Christian obligation. In the modern world, when many have come to doubt the Church's teaching on Purgatory, the need for such prayers must increase and has increased, as can be seen by the high numbers of Mass offerings for the faithful departed and the attendance at Mass today.

In our modern world, with all the technology, we are still busy and have no time.

But today we have taken time to remember and pray for the faithful departed and our departed loved ones.

All the technology can’t help them. Only we can help them with our prayers so that they can truly rest in peace.

And the time will come when we will need the prayers of the living to help us attain eternal rest.