DEATH OF FAITHFUL – All Souls- November 4, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
DEATH OF FAITHFUL- REGARDING ALL SOULS
Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 4, 2012
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
In our Eucharistic prayer, at every Mass, we speak to God our Father. “Remember also our brothers and sisters,” we pray, “who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face.” An aspect of our Catholic faith includes prayer for the deceased. We offer a funeral Mass, graveside prayer, and Mass for the deceased at some fitting time during the year. The Church never ceases to pray for its departed faithful.
On Friday, All Souls’ Day, we began our commemoration of the deceased. Today, we add specific names in our altar basket to those for whom we pray this month. It is fitting that we offer a few remarks on the Church’s teaching about the dead.
In a recent conversation, I spoke with the funeral director. He remarked to me that for many people on this island, death occurs without a religious ceremony. A survivor, often the daughter or son of the deceased, telephones the funeral parlor. Arrangements are made to pick up the body and to transport that body to the crematory. On a following day, the survivor visits with the funeral director, a synopsis of one’s life is prepared, the bill is paid, and finis. Perhaps, in a week or two, friends might gather for an hour’s reception in honor of the deceased.
I am reminded of an Old Testament comment on such a brief and casual farewell. The Book of Wisdom comments in these words.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
And no torment shall touch them.
They seemed in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
And their passing away was thought an affliction
And their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace. (Wisdom 3:1-4)
The Catholic Church does not accept the contemporary view that humans have simply evolved onto a higher plateau than the chimpanzee. Because we know our Creator, because we know ourselves as restless and more fitting than this world’s scope, we yearn for relation with God. If we prize communion with another person—we need another—then our desire reaches for union with our Maker.
St. Paul instructs us. “We will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O Death, is your victory?
Where, O Death, is your sting?” (I Cor 15:51-55
Our Church teaches this.
Each person receives one’s eternal retribution in one’s immortal soul at the very moment of death, in a particular judgment that refers one’s life to Christ, either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (J. Neuner, S.J., J. Dupuis, S.J., The Christian Faith, seventh Revised and Enlarged, p. 1030, #2320.)
The Church also officially teaches that people clean of sin “are received immediately into heaven, and see clearly God himself, one and three, as he is, though some more perfectly than others, according to the diversity of merits.” (Dupuis, p.1020, #2309.)
And the Church also declares that we aid those who have died. “In order that they be relieved from such penalties, the acts of intercession of the living faithful benefit them, namely the sacrifices of the Mass, prayers, alms and other works of piety which the faithful are wont to do for the other faithful according to the Church’s practice.” (Dupuis, p.1020, #2308.)
In recent weeks and days, political advertisements have crowded from TV all other ads. But the Washington State Lottery used to run an advertisement stating that some lucky dog each month wins the Lottery. However, that seems only to pertain to some other person. I never win any drawing. In this fashion we think of death; however, our book to the side of the altar has written the names of twenty people for whom in this past year we offered a funeral in this Church. Mrs. Caroline Brooks has written a book about the tragic death of her teen-aged daughter. The skull and crossbones character will stop someday at our bedside; not wealth, not status, not age prohibits entrance to the scary stranger.
Death like taxes remains unpopular. Like pit bulls, they fasten to us mortals. All Souls’ Day reminds us.
Thus I hear the old saw, “if you can’t lick em, then join em.” The Apostle Paul employs two metaphors. In the first, Paul likens himself to the Roman practice of pouring a bit of wine on the floor to honor a god; he has said that he has poured out himself for advancing faith in Christ (Philippians 2:17). Then he likens himself to a runner in a track meet.
“For I am already being poured out like a libation,” he writes to Timothy, “and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well, I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul was preparing himself for martyrdom which he saw approaching. We prepare ourselves for an ending of our mortality. Amen.