So as to be more available to the graces flowing through these
readings and this liturgy, we might, using our memories, call to mind the
faces and personalities of those faithful who have been companions with us
on our journeys of life. The young, the elderly, the recently departed and
those whose faces and voices are difficult to recall, we can spend a blest
time with those now gone, but not forgotten.
We can pray gently in a spirit of grateful grieving. For some who are no
longer with us, the grieving might not yet be accompanied by gratitude. We
can pray also for a greater awareness of the blest souls whom we take as
always being there.
We can pray as well for the grace of believing deeply in God’s mercy and
welcome to us when our life’s-thread runs out.
(Please note that the readings chosen for this Reflection might not be those
chosen for your particular celebration.)
Wisdom 3: 1-9
The simple truth is that grieving is both a psychological and healthy response
as well as a spiritual awareness that we long to have it all and that’s in
the beyond which we call “Heaven.”
This First Reading displays this split vision. We have our judgements about
the losses we experience through the deaths in our lives. We hear the words
“torment”,“foolish”, “affliction”, and “destruction” as terms
of how we might view the passings of our beloved. We could say they were
“punished” or “chastised.” Emotionally we would feel those
strong movements of disappointment and anger. This reading from the Book
of Wisdom allows those natural reactions, but offers a different and more
spiritually faithful response. Our judgements are softened by our faith.
Those whom we lose are found now in the hands of God and they are at peace.
The souls of the faithful are not departed from God who “took them to himself.”
Faithful here does not mean perfect, but a trusting in the mercy of the God
who calls for our trust. Life can be seen as a time of purgation like gold
purified in the furnace. God does not test our faith by making us suffer.
God invites us to trust the experiences of human frailty and limitations
which we can judge as suffering. “Grace and mercy are with his holy ones.”
If we only knew then that their passing would be more than a loss.
John 14: 1-6
In this Gospel passage, Thomas wants to know for sure, but Jesus’ response
is an invitation to trust. These words are from the opening scene of the
Last Conversation between Jesus and his close followers. When he finishes
speaking these words Jesus will walk out with his friends straight towards
his own passing. He is not testing their faith; he is inviting them to follow
his “way” of “trustiving.” This word means living trust rather than thinking
and talking about it. Jesus is going to prepare a place, but they want to
know about the accommodations.
We too want to have some accurate idea or image of what’s next. To where
does the “way” lead? There are all kinds of jokes about heaven and we can
not even imagine eternity. Jesus fails to fill in the blank, but he does
say that following his “way” will fulfill all desires then. Will we see family
members and old friends? Will we have intimacy with God in a mystical or
even emotional ways? Having questions and human desires for fullness are
parts of the “way” it seems.
We are blest if we mourn and grieving and missing means we have loved and
been loved. This is a celebration of the Faithful Departed, but not all of
who they are has departed. The faithful have also imparted; that is, they
have given us something of God, something of our soul, something of what
I had an uncle who began living with Multiple Sclerosis after his first year
of law school. I knew him as my father’s brother who had a shaky voice, walked
with a cane and was so excited to see us all when we visited my grandmother
and him on their farm west of Milwaukee. He loved us, let us feed his chickens,
but imparted a deep religious sense to me that suffering like beauty was
in the eye of the beholder. He would drive us to the little country church,
but could not get out of his truck or up the stairs. He waited, and I assume,
attended the liturgy inside, while outside. The parish priest came once a
month for confession and to offer him Holy Communion. That was a big deal
for my uncle. We wondered together why Uncle Jim would have to go to confession.
He was a faithful imparter. These “Imparters” now departed have left something
of eternity behind for our timeliness. They have given us a sense of “soul”,
of “faith”, of “beyond”, and a deep sense of what is important. Those of
us who have experienced those “Faithful Imparters” are more deeply aware
of our not having here a lasting home. Not all of them had great sufferings;
many had wonderful, healthy exciting lives, but their spirits, their souls,
have given us a sense of our own souls and gentle power to reveal here on
earth, the beyondness of life and the nearness of God. We thank God for all
the Faithful Departed Imparters. You may include names of such souls in our
online book - The Book of the Names of the Dead at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/names/
“Though I walk in the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Ps. 23