Monday, October 27, 2014

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - November 2, 2014

First Reading Commentary
Souls are justified by the One and Supreme Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Many tears flow during funeral Masses.  Ideally, there’s a twofold reason for that: First, they should be tears of joy as our faith tells us that our beloved one, our friend is in the Hands of God.  Secondly they are tears of sorrow because we have lost a loved one and we don’t know when we’ll see our beloved again.  Perhaps the latter often overtakes the former and it is for this reason that this Reading calls us “foolish”.  But the former offers great words of comfort: “But they are in peace.” 

The Benedictine monk Antoine Augustin Calmet sees a reference to the martyrs in the verse: “For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself.” 

If our hope for joy were confined to this world, then the sadness we endure in the here and now would likely grow beyond control.  But no, the faithful ones are the recipients of God’s grace, mercy and care.  

Second Reading Commentary
Hope is always a pertinent word in the deaths of the faithful; and this Reading tells us that “Hope does not disappoint.” 

Most of us would like to believe that if the circumstance presented itself, we would die for a loved one.  But truthfully, how we would react in such a situation is unknown until we actually face it.  Heroic acts are not uncommon to the human person but neither is self-preservation.  It is certainly an avenue one hopes to never travel. 

This whole topic would really take a turn towards the bizarre or ridiculous if we start considering the possibility of sacrificing our life for people who couldn’t care less or even hate us.  Saint Jerome’s understanding of the Greek text appears as: “Scarcely would anyone die for a just cause; for who would ever think of dying in defense of injustice?”  But this is the reality of God’s mysterious love for humanity.  Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross only for those who love Him back.  He died for all of us, right down to those who falsely accused Him as well as the one who hammered the nails into His Flesh. 

The Latin Vulgate asks the question: “For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak, according to the time, die for the ungodly?”  The answer is easy to speak but difficult to grasp and explain - God loves us.

Optional Second Reading Commentary
In our hustle-bustle, technological western world, there’s an overall vibe when witnessing a baptism, that it is merely just another religious ceremony and is nowhere near as exciting as High-Definition Television or being able to send and receive emails through your cell phone.  The reality, however, is that where there’s a baptism there is found the newest son or daughter of God’s beloved family who has an eternal destiny.  And from that moment on, the newly baptized are called to a newness of life; but unfortunately, rampant secularism detracts and distracts from the seriousness of that newness. 

As Saint Paul points out, we must think of ourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.  The words “are you unaware” really set the tone for the entire reading.  You truly get a - pounding on the table - “Don’t you get it?”- sense of zeal in this letter from Saint Paul.  The main point here is: If Jesus Christ died but defeated death and was raised, then, He can’t ever die again.  Consequently, if our old, sinful bodies died through the waters of baptism and rose to a new life, then we must be faithful to that newness by never sinning again - or in reality, making every effort not to sin.  “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”              

Gospel Commentary
Both Saints Hilary and Augustine teach us that in this Gospel passage Jesus recommends to us His humility.  And that those who come to Jesus shall not be cast away but shall be incorporated with Him.  Let us remember, however, that only a lively faith and humility can truly come to Jesus. 

There is great joy in knowing that when we come to Jesus He will not lose or cast aside what has been given to Him.  It is the will of our heavenly Father that those who follow Jesus, those who come to His beloved Son, shall have eternal life.  This weekend as we remember all of our dearly departed, let us hold fast to these truths.