The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls/Morning Mass)

One of the deep mysteries of the human experience lies in the realities of life and death. Everyone has, or will, experience the death of loved ones, sometimes after a long life, sometimes far too soon, always with feelings of sadness, regret, pain, grief and perhaps even anger or confusion.

That’s how grief works. It might seem sometimes like it would have been better to live without love, but we know deep down that that’s not true. Sadness and even death are temporary; love is eternal. As the Church’s vigil for the deceased tells us, “all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.” We know that death only separates us for a short time, and even though there is that hole in our heart, the sadness that we feel is way better than never having loved at all, never having had our loved ones in our lives at all.

Today, the Church gives us the grace of remembering, and praying for, all of our loved ones who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, and all the dead whose faith is known to God alone. The Church is great in wisdom in giving us this feast every year. Because even though on this day, we might shed a few tears, still we will have the grace of remembering the ones who have given us life, given us wisdom, those who have been Christ to us, those who have made God’s love tangibly present in our lives.

Even if the memories aren’t the best, and even if we struggle with the pain of past hurts mixed with the sorrow of grief, there is grace in remembering today. Maybe this day can be an occasion of healing, even if it’s just a little bit. Maybe our tears, mixed with the saving Blood of Christ, can wash and purify our wounded hearts and sorrowful souls. And certainly our prayers are heard by our God who gives us healing and brings our loved ones closer to him, purifying them of any stain of sin gathered along the journey of life.

That pain that perhaps we feel won’t all go away today. We are left with tears and loneliness, and that empty place at the table, and that hole in our heart. But sadness and pain absolutely do not last forever, because death and sin have been ultimately defeated by the Blood of Christ. We can hope in the day that our hearts will be healed, and we will be reunited with our loved ones forever, with all of our hurts healed and relationships purified, in the kingdom that knows no end. The Eucharistic Prayer itself will tell us today that there will come a day when God “will wipe away every tear from our eyes. For seeing you, our God, as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages and praise you without end, through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow in the world all that is good.”

Eternal rest grant unto all of our departed loved ones, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The First Sunday of Lent: Remember Who You Are

Today’s readings

It’s really easy for us to forget who we are. That’s what all that tempting in the desert was all about. The devil wanted Jesus to forget who he was, what he came to do, and so then have power over him. He would have Jesus forget that real hunger is not satisfied by mere bread, but must be satisfied by God’s word. He would have Jesus forget that there is only one God and that real glory comes from obedience to God’s command and from living according to God’s call. He would have Jesus forget that life itself is God’s gift and that we must cherish it as much as God does.

And he wants us all to forget that stuff too. During this time of Lent, these 40 days in the desert for us, the devil wants us to forget that we can give up things we don’t truly need and depend on God to give us that which is so much better. He wants us to forget that we can give sacrificially to those in need and depend on God to satisfy our own needs. He wants us to forget that time spent in prayer is not a waste of time, that making time for God helps us to make time for everything important.

But just as Jesus didn’t forget who he was, we can’t forget either. We can take comfort when we are tempted because we know our Savior was tempted too. We can take courage in the desert, knowing that we don’t have to be out there all alone; that our Savior is there with us, giving us strength and example and direction.

This Lent needs to be first and foremost a remembering of who we are, so that we can be all that God wants for us. If we can accomplish that in these forty days, we will certainly attain an Easter of unending joy.

The First Sunday of Lent: Remembering Who We Are

Today’s readings

Perhaps the greatest sin of modern times, maybe of all time, is that we sometimes forget who we are. Politicians forget that they are elected officials, given the trust of the people they serve, and so they become embroiled in a scandal or sell themselves to special interest groups. Church leaders forget that they are ordained by God for holiness and so they give in to keeping up appearances, and bring scandal to the Church. But it’s not just these people; all of us fall to this temptation at one time or another – maybe several times – in our lives. Young people forget that they have been raised in good Christian, loving homes, and in their quest to define themselves, turn away from the values they have been taught. Adults forget that they are vocationally called to love their spouse and their children and so get caught up in their careers to the detriment of their family. Think of any problem we have or any scandal that has been endured and deep at the core of it, I think it stems from forgetting who we are.

Forgetting who we are changes everything for the worse. It makes solving problems or ending scandal seem insurmountable: we have to constantly cook up new solutions to new problems, because we’ve gone in a new direction on a road that never should have been traveled. That was the scandal of Eden, and the scandal of the Tower of Babel, among others. Once we’ve forgotten who we are and acted impetuously, it’s hard to un-ring the bell.

One of the consequences of forgetting who we are is that we forget who God is too. We no longer look to God to be our Savior, because we instead would like to solve things on our own. Perhaps we are embarrassed to come to God because we are deep in a problem of our own making. We see this all the time in our lives: who of us wants to go to a parent or boss or authority figure – or anyone, really – and tell them that we thought we had all the answers but now we’ve messed up and we can’t fix it and we desperately need their help? If that’s true then we’re all the more reluctant to go to God, aren’t we?

This forgetting who we are, and forgetting who God is, is the spiritual problem that our readings are trying to address today. Moses meets the people on the occasion of the harvest sacrifice, and challenges them not to make the sacrifice an empty, rote repetition of a familiar ritual. They are to remember that their ancestors were wandering people who ended up in slavery in Egypt, only to be delivered by God and brought to a land flowing with milk and honey. And it is for that reason that they are to joyfully offer the sacrifice.

St. Paul exhorts the Romans to remember who Jesus was and to remember his saving sacrifice and glorious resurrection. They are to remember that this faith in Christ gives them hope of eternity and that, calling on the Lord, they can find salvation.

But it is the familiar story of Christ being tempted in the desert that speaks to us most clearly of the temptation to forget who we are and who God is. The devil would like nothing more than for Jesus to forget who he was and why he was here. He would have Jesus forget that real hunger is not satisfied by mere bread, but must be satisfied by God’s word. He would have Jesus forget that there is only one God and that real glory comes from obedience to God’s command and from living according to God’s call. He would have Jesus forget that life itself is God’s gift and that we must cherish it as much as God does.

But Jesus won’t forget. He refuses to turn stones into bread, remembering that God will take care of all his real hunger. He refuses to worship Satan and gain every kingdom of the world, remembering that he belongs to God’s kingdom. He refuses to throw away his life in a pathetic attempt to test God, remembering that God is trustworthy and that he doesn’t need to prove it.

The way that we remember who we are as a Church is through Liturgy. In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the stories of faith handed down from generation to generation. These are the stories of our ancestors, from the Old Testament and the New. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we re-present the story of Christ’s Passion and death, and as we do that, it becomes new for us once again. There is no better way for us to remember who we are as a people than to faithfully participate in the Sacred Liturgy.

And so we come to this holy place on this holy day to remember that we are a holy people, made holy by our God. We remember who we are and who God is. We rely on the Spirit’s help to reject the temptations of Satan that would call us to forget who we are and instead become a people of our own making. We have come again to another Lent. Lent is a time of conversion. For the people in our Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults – RCIA – it is a time of conversion from one way of life to another. For the rest of us, Lent is a time of continued re-conversion. Our Church teaches us that conversion is a life-long process. In conversion, we see who our God is more clearly and we see ourselves in a new, and truer light – indeed we see who we really are before God.

That is life in God as it was always meant to be. Remembering our God, remembering who we are, we have promise of being set on high, as the Psalmist proclaims today. This Lent can lead us to new heights in our relationship with God. Praise God for the joy of remembering, praise God for the joy of Lent.

First Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings

Perhaps the greatest sin of modern times, maybe of all time, is that we sometimes forget who we are.  Politicians forget that they are elected officials, given the trust of the people they serve, and so they become embroiled in a scandal or sell themselves to special interest groups.  Church leaders forget that they are ordained by God for holiness and so they give in to keeping up appearances, and bring scandal to the Church.  But it’s not just these people; all of us fall to this temptation at one time or another – maybe several times – in our lives.  Young people forget that they have been raised in good Christian, loving homes, and in their quest to define themselves, turn away from the values they have been taught.  Adults forget that they are vocationally called to love their spouse and their children and so get caught up in their careers to the detriment of their family.  Think of any problem we have or any scandal that has been endured and deep at the core of it, I think it stems from forgetting who we are.

Forgetting who we are changes everything for the worse.  It makes solving problems or ending scandal seem insurmountable, because we have to constantly cook up new solutions to new problems, because we’ve gone in a new direction on a road that never should have been traveled.  That was the scandal of Eden, and the scandal of the Tower of Babel, among others.  Once we’ve forgotten who we are and acted impetuously, it’s hard to un-ring the bell.

One of the consequences of forgetting who we are is that we forget who God is too.  We no longer look to God to be our Savior, because we instead would like to solve things on our own.  Perhaps we are embarrassed to come to God because we are deep in a problem of our own making.  We see this all the time in our lives: who of us wants to go to a parent or boss or authority figure – or anyone, really – and tell them that we thought we had all the answers but now we’ve messed up and we can’t fix it and we desperately need their help?  If that’s true then we’re all the more reluctant to go to God, aren’t we?

This forgetting who we are, and forgetting who God is, is the spiritual problem that our readings are trying to address today.  Moses meets the people on the occasion of the harvest sacrifice, and challenges them not to make the sacrifice an empty, rote repetition of a familiar ritual.  They are to remember that their ancestors were wandering people who ended up in slavery in Egypt, only to be delivered by God and brought to a land flowing with milk and honey.  And it is for that reason that they are to joyfully offer the sacrifice.

St. Paul exhorts the Romans to remember who Jesus was and to remember his saving sacrifice and glorious resurrection.  They are to remember that this faith in Christ gives them hope of eternity and that, calling on the Lord, they can find salvation.

But it is the familiar story of Christ being tempted in the desert that speaks to us most clearly of the temptation to forget who we are and who God is.  The devil would like nothing more than for Jesus to forget who he was and why he was here. He would have Jesus forget that real hunger is not satisfied by mere bread, but must be satisfied by God’s word. He would have Jesus forget that there is only one God and that real glory comes from obedience to God’s command and from living according to God’s call. He would have Jesus forget that life itself is God’s gift and that we must cherish it as much as God does.

But Jesus won’t forget. He refuses to turn stones into bread, remembering that God will take care of all his real hunger. He refuses to worship Satan and gain every kingdom of the world, remembering that he belongs to God’s kingdom. He refuses to throw away his life in a pathetic attempt to test God, remembering that God is trustworthy and that he doesn’t need to prove it.

The way that we remember who we are as a Church is through Liturgy. In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the stories of faith handed down from generation to generation. These are the stories of our ancestors, whether from the Old Testament or the New. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we re-present the story of Christ’s Passion and death, and as we do that, it becomes new for us once again. There’s a part of every Eucharistic Prayer that recalls Jesus’ suffering and death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. This is called the anamnesis, which is translated as recollection, or remembering, but is perhaps best rendered as a re-presentation. Because our remembering as a Church isn’t just some kind of fond reminiscence, it’s not just a recalling of some events that happened hundreds of years ago, no … our anamnesis is a re-presentation of Christ’s passion and death and resurrection, the whole Paschal event that saved us and made us the people that we are.  In this anamnesis we remember that our God is madly in love with us, and that through his Son Jesus, gives himself to us completely, refusing to live in eternity without us, loving us into salvation, and making us a people of grace.  When we as a Church gather to remember, we are there, right in and among that saving sacrifice that made us God’s own people once again.

And so we come to this holy place on this holy day to remember that we are a holy people, made holy by our God.  We remember who we are and who God is.  We rely on the Spirit’s help to reject the temptations of Satan that would call us to forget who we are and instead become a people of our own making.  We have come again to another Lent.  Lent is a time of conversion.  For the people in our Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults – RCIA – it is a time of conversion from one way of life to another.  For the rest of us, Lent is a time of continued re-conversion.  Our Church teaches us that conversion is a life-long process.  In conversion, we see who our God is more clearly and we see ourselves in a new, and truer light – indeed we see who we really are before God.

That is life in God as it was always meant to be.  Remembering our God, remembering who we are, we have promise of being set on high, as the Psalmist proclaims today.  This Lent can lead us to new heights in our relationship with God.  Praise God for the joy of remembering, praise God for the joy of Lent.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: