The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

Today we commemorate all the faithful departed. As we pray for those who have died, it may be useful for us to reflect on the relationship between our life on this earth and the life that is promised to us in eternity. Jesus says, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19-20). We have, in fact, only one life to take with us into eternity, and it is through the choices that we make in this life that we gather the treasure that God offers us, so that we might share them in eternity with the whole world. Our life on this earth is, as it were, “eternalized” in Christ. We see this in the saints, who share with the whole body of Christ the riches that they received from the Lord during their earthly life; their heavenly mission is an “eternalizing” of their earthly mission. For example, during his earthly life St. Francis received from God a humility and a closeness to the poor: this already is for God’s glory, and it is for God’s greater glory that he shares the riches of this life with the whole body of Christ from heaven.

But perhaps we are not all so open to God’s graces as Francis was. What hope is there for the rest of us? St. Paul observes, “no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:11-15). Only that which comes from Christ in our own lives can be “eternalized.” Anything that we have built on a different foundation, using “wood, hay, or straw” will be burned away. But, because of the graciousness of God’s superabundant love, it may be that there are more “gold, silver, and precious stones” in our lives than we may imagine. Perhaps the very things that we least desired in life might be those things which will be preserved for us to share for all eternity. But for this to be so, we must ask for the grace to cling to God more tightly than to any created thing, so that, trusting in God, we “shall understand truth” and be the faithful who “shall abide with him in love” (Wis 3:9). Let us, then, not become attached even to our own lack but rather cling to the one who says, “this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn 6:39).

November 2nd, 2016