All Souls Day – Cycle A
Wis 3:1-9 Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Rom 5:5-11 Jn 6:37-40
Grandpa Frank Died
My grandfather died while I was in college studying to be an engineer. He died during finals when the weather was cold and windy, and I was taking evening classes. It was an early afternoon when I got the call from my mom who told me that Grandpa Frank had died. He had been sitting at the kitchen table talking with Grandma, and when he stood up to go and get the laundry for her, he fell over dead.
For the rest of that day I was in a fog. I still had finals to take and the rest of the week I just went through the motions, finishing up tests, turning in projects, and then we drove out to Nebraska for his funeral.
Seeing Death Face to Face
At the vigil we prayed the rosary for Grandpa, and it was there that I came face to face with his body, lying cold in his coffin, holding on to his rosary. It was really the first time I had come face to face with the death of someone I knew and loved very much.
When we buried Grandpa, all of us gathered around his grave, and had a really good cry. We were saying goodbye, and grieving together as a family. Our tears were of sadness mixed with joy. It hurt to miss Grandpa, but at the same time, I was so happy to have known a man who was so full of life and full of love.
Comfort the sorrowing – Death is not the end
One of the greatest joys of my diaconal ministry is to pray with the families of those who have died. In those special moments, I have an opportunity to reach out to the families who have lost loved ones. They are sad, they are grieving, they have a sense of shell shock. At the same time it is an opportunity to share the hope that is at the heart of the Gospel – death is not the end.
We are created for Relationship with God
We are created for relationship with God and with one another. Death is not an end to our relationships, but a transformation in their nature. Grandpa Frank is with God now, and our relationship has not ended, because Christ will not end. God created us for a relationship of Love – selfless love. Love where we pour out our lives for one another.
How my fathers witnessed their sacrificial love
Years after Grandpa Frank died my Dad was sharing with me an example of his love. When my Dad wanted to go to a particular college, Grandpa went to work at a second job so that he could. It was Grandpa’s way of saying to my Dad – I love you. Likewise, when I needed to finish a basement in my house, my Dad gave up his weekends to come over and help me remodel, framing, wiring, sheetrocking, painting, and finishing. It was his witness of selfless love to me.
Grain of Sand vs Pike Peak
When Jesus came to live among us He told us that the way we live our lives here on earth determines how we will spend eternity when we die. Now, we might think that 80 or 90 or 100 years is a long time, but that is NOTHING compared to eternity. It is like comparing an itty-bitty grain of sand to Pike’s Peak.
Christ calls us to love one another as He has loved us. To pour out our lives for one another. This is the witness of selfless love. When a father gives of himself to his children. When a husband serves his wife, when we take care of one another here in the Church, or on the highway, or at work or school then we are preparing our souls to spend eternity with God in heaven.
Selfish Love – You Deserve It!
Original Sin and our culture corrupts this natural tendency for selfless love and twists it into selfish love. The majority of advertisements that we see encourage us to love ourselves. Slogans like “You deserve it!” “Pamper yourself!” “You earned it!” take our naturally created need to give ourselves in selfless love and twist it inwards on itself so that we love ourselves. To God, Selfish love sounds like our sound system when we misconnect it so that it feeds back on itself. It sounds horrendous.
In his Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis praises Sister Death when he says “Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death, from whose embrace man can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.”
The reason for his warning of woe is tied to the Scriptures, to the judgment of our souls. The Catechism teaches that when we die, we face two judgments, the Particular Judgment and the Final Judgment. This is another way of reminding ourselves that what we do, how we relate to one another does matter. That is why when our relationships with God and one another are in good order, we are happy to meet Sister Death.
Particular Judgment – Lazarus and the Rich Man
When we die our soul faces the particular judgment. We know this from Luke’s Gospel where Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus and the Rich Man both receive an immediate reward for how they lived their lives. Lazarus ends up with the Saints, and the Rich Man in an abyss. Both reaped the fruits of their labors, but the Rich Man was not really prepared to meet Sister Death.
Final Judgment – The Sheepish Question
Jesus goes on in scripture to speak about the final judgment that happens at the end of time. When this topic came up while I was in the Seminary one nameless Deacon Candidate sheepishly raised his hand and said – “Excuse me professor, does that mean that God can give us a reward, and then at the end of time change his mind?” The professor answered the question this way. At the particular judgment we experience immediately what we have done, but at the final judgment we see the effects of our actions, both the good and the bad rippling through the lives of all that we have met, like a stone entering a still lake. What a profound witness to the power of sacrificial love that moment will be.
Meditation on Death – Reflect on your life with urgency!
In some monastic orders, when one of the nuns or monks dies, all of the brothers or sisters gather around the body to hold a wake. The body of their dead brother or sister helps them to think about the grain of sand and Pikes Peak. As a Deacon, when I have the opportunity to pray with a family who has lost a loved one, I always come away thinking about this image as it relates to my own life; and my own death. God allows this to happen because he is asking us the question – “how am I maturing in my ability to love selflessly”?
I am the Vine, you are the Branches
The source of selfless love is found here in the Mass, where we become rooted in Christ – who said in John’s Gospel – “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned… As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” In this Mass we are invited to the Table of the Lord, to unite our sacrifices to His as he pours out His life for us and feeds us with his Body and Blood. Here we have the foundation of selfless-ness, the foundation of self-giving. It is here in this great mystery that we find the antidote to selfishness, the source of holiness, and the strength to grow in relationship with one another.
Divine grace washing into your soul
Some of the most precious time that I get is when I sneak in here late at night, or early in the morning to just sit and soak in the presence of the Lord. Sometimes I can feel the Lord is gently filling up my soul with His love, like a tub that is filled to the brim and gently overflowing. I become profoundly aware of the peace, joy and love that Christ is showing me here in this sacrament of the Altar.
Watch and Pray
I want to invite you to join me in taking just one hour out of your week, or month and coming to the Church to spend time in silent prayer before the Lord. At our parish we are blessed with opportunities for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
· Every Tuesday night from 6PM until 7:30 PM (Shirley)
· Every Thursday day from 8:30 AM until 9:00 PM, (Fr Dan)
· Every first weekend of the Month we have Adoration from Friday evening until Sunday morning. (Jorge Reyes / Luis Ponce)
Come and spend an hour with the Lord and I promise you that his blessings will fill up your life. I have seen the fruits of adoration in families have given some time to God in prayer. He blesses those families with an abundance of His grace. Not all at once, but slowly and gradually they are transformed into blazing beacons of Gods love.
What a beautiful wedding – Well done Good and Faithful..
After we buried Grandpa Frank, we returned to the Church where we had a meal that the parishioners had kindly prepared for us. I turned to my Grandma and meant to say to her, “Grandma, that was the most beautiful funeral I have ever attended”. But instead I said “Grandma, that was the most beautiful marriage I have ever attended”. She responded with a smile – “Your right Paul, because Grandpa is with God now at the heavenly marriage feast.”
And so, my sisters and brothers I long for the day when we can join my Grandpa at that great wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.