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Remembering Our Dead – Homily for Mass of Remembrance

St. Luke Parish – Mass of Remembrance
Wisdom 3:1-6, 9
Psalm 103
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
Matthew 11:25-30
November 2, 2019

It is Fall outside.  That should be obvious.  The leaves have been changing colors.  The grass has stopped growing.  The gardens are dying off.  Birds have migrated.  Compared to a few months ago, nature seems barren of life.

Yet, we know this is part of the natural cycle of life.   What is becoming barren now will bloom again with new life when Spring comes.  “We flower and we fade.”

So it is too with human life.

It is in this month of November when nature seems barren of life in the northern hemisphere that our church calls us to have a special time of prayer for the dead.  This is why November is a month of praying for the dead.

It’s also why we choose this time of year to offer this annual Mass of Remembrance as we pray for the dead, especially those who have died in the last year.

Some of them died almost a year ago, others more recently.  Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace.  Even people in the same family may be at different points in their grieving.  The circumstances of the death, whether it be from age, illness, or an accident also impact our grieving.  As Wisdom says, “their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.” 

Whatever led to their death, we may feel we are separated from them now.  Paul speaks of what might “separate us from the love of Christ?”  Death is among the things he considers but death does not separate us from Christ.  In fact, death from this world can lead us to the fullness of God’s presence in Heaven for our hope is “full of immortality.

We might fear the consequences of sins but “not according to our sins does God deal with us.”  Rather God “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.”  Jesus died for us.  There is the love of Christ.  There is our hope.

It is Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins that we celebrate in Mass.  When we offer a funeral Mass, the intention for that Mass is for our loved one’s time in Purgatory to be swift.  When we offer a Mass intention for our loved one, it is not just a way of honoring them.  It is to pray for them in Purgatory. 

We don’t know how long one is in Purgatory but it is a good place even though it involves pain.  It is good because, if we are there, we know we will make it to Heaven.  Purgatory exists to cleanse us of the effects of our sins (already forgiven).

So, today’s Mass is offered for all those who have died in the last year. 

We also pray for ourselves.  As I said before, each person might be in a different place in the grieving process.  The loss of a loved one can feel like a burden.  Here I turn to Jesus’ words in the gospel today, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

We might feel labored and burdened with grief.  How do we find rest from the burden of grief?  There is a saying, “time heals all wounds.”  The grieving process naturally takes time but what really gives us “rest” from our grief? 

Hope.

The hope that we have in Jesus.  Hope that comes knowing that Jesus loves us enough to die for us on the Cross.  Hope that comes in knowing that Jesus rose and that He promises that all who believe in him as “the way and the truth and the life” will share in the Resurrection.  We may be separated from our deceased loved ones now but we will be reunited in Heaven.

If you count the number of words about death and hope I have said today, one would probably find that in quantity I have spoken more words about death but it has not been my intent to speak about death.  The whole purpose of ALL my words today has been hope

I have only talked about death in the context of “When pain and sorrow weigh us down” (verse 1 “Eye Has Not Seen) to talk about hope. 

Hope is what faith is about.  Hope changes the way we look at things, most especially death.  Hope points us beyond the things of this world to the things of Heaven.  Hope points us to Heaven where we are meant to spend eternity.

Thank God for the hope we have in Jesus.

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