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Homily for Mass of Remembrance

Mass of Remembrance for Those Who Died in the Last Year
Wisdom 3:1-9
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Luke 23:44-46, 50, 52-53; 24:1-6a
November 2, 2021

Each person that we pray for by name tonight died in the last year.  It may have been a year ago or a month ago.  Each person who is here tonight, even two people who come tonight to pray for the same person, may be at a different point in grieving.

Sometimes we may only grieve a short period.  Sometimes we grieve for a long time.  While there are commonalities in grieving, there is no set order.  We may face denial or anger at the death.  Even if we quickly accept the death, we can experience sadness and even depression. 

When a loved one dies, it might feel like “darkness came over the whole land.” Like the veil that was torn in the temple our hearts have been torn in sadness.

When a loved one dies, we have our traditional customs.  We have calling hours, a funeral, burial, and often a reception.  Or at least normally we do.  COVID has limited even these.

From the gospels we know that Joseph of Arimathea saw to the burial of Jesus.  We have done the same for our loved ones.  However, our grieving does not end with the burial.

In celebrating a funeral for a loved one, we are placing “the souls of the just” into “the hand of God.”  Their death may have seemed like “utter destruction” in this world but in faith, we believe they live on.

We do “not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”  Without faith, earthly death is a final end.  With faith, we have hope in the Resurrection. 

Jesus did not remain in the tomb.  On the third day He rose and appeared to his disciples so that we may know what it means to rise. 

Still, even with faith, grieving can be hard.  We continue to pray for our deceased loved ones. We miss our loved ones but we do not forget them.  We offer Mass intentions for them.  We offer this Mass tonight for them.

Here I think of the final words in our second reading tonight.  I use them at a funeral Mass just before the incensing.  “Therefore, console one another with these words.

The words…they are words of faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith that Jesus died so that our sins might be forgiven.  Faith that Jesus goes to prepare a place in his Father’s house for those who believe in him as the way and the truth and the life. 

So, why do we offer Masses for them?

2 Maccabees 12 speaks of praying for the dead.  Our reading tonight from the Book of Wisdom says, “As gold in the furnace, he proved them.”  When a person dies in faith, we pray they are welcomed into the heavenly kingdom.  Their sins are already forgiven.  However, to enter into Heaven, they need to be cleansed of the remnant of their sins.  This happens in Purgatory.  One of the images of Purgatory is that of fire.  It is not the destructive and painful fire of Hell.  No, the fire of Purgatory is a cleansing fire that refines us just as gold is refined in the furnace.

We need Purgatory to make us ready for Heaven.

So, tonight we offer our prayers for our loved ones.  We offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to ease their time in Purgatory.

However, it is not just them that we pray for tonight.  We pray for you.  As I already said, we each grieve differently.  Maybe your grieving is over.  Maybe it has just begun.  Know that you do not grieve alone.  As you grieve, ask God to help you.  As you ask for help for yourself, pray that God helps others that are grieving.

Let us console one another in faith, faith that our loved ones have been forgiven and are cleansed of the effects of their sins to enter Heaven.  Pray the one day we all share with them in the Resurrection.

(For more on grieving, our funeral customs, and Purgatory see articles I have written on my website at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/funerals–mass-intentions–and-purgatory.html.)

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