purgatory-massHomily for Mass – Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi:  Saturday 6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am)

2 November 2014

(Readings: Is 25:6-9;  Ps 26;  Rom 5:5-11;  Mt 11:25-30)


Every Sunday we profess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” In the midst of our busy, earthly lives, we probably don’t linger much on those words each Sunday. However, when we come to a funeral then those ancient words seem to carry new weight and promise. A Christian funeral is not only a vehicle for the expression of emotions of grief. It is also a statement of faith and a time of prayer.

Today, as we celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed – All souls – we remember our beloved dead. As we remember them we hear the words of faith in the scriptures, reminding us of the fact that one day the Lord will destroy death forever, and gather his faithful people to the heavenly banquet. We are reassured by the second reading that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Our sins and weaknesses should not stop us from striving to follow Jesus, always coming back to him when we fall, always throwing ourselves on his mercy.

This commemoration is a day of memory. We recall those people whose lives have deeply touched us, people who have travelled a part of life’s journey with us. We remember them not as perfect beings, but as human people with limitations like ourselves. In the midst of that, we can see their goodness, their dedication and even their heroism. In remembering them, we are reminded that none of us is self-sufficient: as the book of wisdom reminds us, the life and death of each of us has its influence on others. Each of us has been helped, guided and supported in prayer by many others. And so on this day we remember all those people, especially those from our childhood days, who have assisted us in our life, and who have now gone to their eternal rest.

All Souls Day is also a day of faith. In the face of death, we affirm our belief in the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ. This world in which we were conceived and have grown is like the runway to eternal life with God. Death may be the end of our earthly life, but it is not the end of our soul. A great and glorious future awaits all those who are faithful to Christ. When we close our eyes to sleep the sleep of death, we will awaken on the other side, and the first Person we will see is Jesus Christ Who knows the full and deep truth about our life. He knows thoroughly the places of light and shadow in our life about which nobody else is aware. We come to Christ with all we have become in this life. This is a day to affirm our faith in eternal life.

Lastly, All Souls Day is also a day of prayer. When we feel powerless in the face of death, our faith teaches us that through prayer we can assist others in that time of mending and healing that the Lord gives to those, on their way to heaven, after death. This time of final healing and purification is known as purgatory. Prayer for those who have died is a wonderful way that we can remain connected to them. It can be an instrument of reconciliation with those from whom we had become distant or even resentful. It can be a way of showing gratitude to those with whom we have been close.

All Souls Day is a day filled with memory, faith, and prayer. It reminds us that we are part of a great alliance of grace that is stronger than death. We are joined in the communion of saints: those in heaven already, ourselves here living this earthly life, and the souls in purgatory undergoing their final cleansing and purification, freeing them from everything that keeps them from entering the presence of God. This alliance of grace is stronger than death. The example of those who have gone before us can be an inspiration for us. We are reminded that people before us have confronted the dilemmas we face.

If some of those who have died may have failed us, then they are most certainly in need of our prayers. And this can be a healing and reconciling grace.

Far from being morbid, All Souls Day is a wonderful day of remembering, healing and praying. It is a day rich in faith and hope, and a day of reconciliation, something we all need.

So let us pray for our beloved dead:
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.  Amen.
May theirs souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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(Taken from: S. Joseph Krempa, “Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle B.”  With adaptations).