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Feast of All Souls—November 2, 2014

1101-tutti-i-santi-thumb-400x320On this day, we remember all those who have died in God’s friendship. What does it mean to be a friend of God?

By Gayle Somers

Gospel (Read Jn 6:37-40)

Today, Jesus gives us a glimpse into God the Father’s master plan for His creation. We know from the first chapter of Genesis that God wanted man’s friendship—why else would He create him in His own image and likeness (see Gn 1:26)? The first part of man’s story reveals what happens when men reject the friendship God offers them, both inside Eden and outside (in the nation He created for Himself, Israel). Then Jesus appears within our story and teaches us that God never intended to lose us, even though our own foolishness gave Him every justification for that. No, God had a plan to recover and restore all that was lost. Jesus, God’s Son in the flesh, “came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the One who sent Me.” God’s will is that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.”

When Jesus speaks this way, we can see how bountiful and generous God’s plan is. Jesus says He will “not reject anyone” who comes to Him. This reminds us that God actually wants us with Him. He is not trying to restrict heaven by weeding most of us out. His plan, from the beginning, has been to prove His great love for us by sending Jesus. As St. Paul writes, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 4:8).

All those who “see” and “believe” the Son have the gift of eternal life. That was the whole point of Jesus’ mission. We might wonder about all those who, as far as we can tell, don’t “see” and “believe” in Him before they die. What about those who, through foolishness, stubbornness, or lack of knowledge (having never even heard of the Gospel) go to their deaths without any visible sign of faith? Is there any hope for them? We might be thinking of them among our family members and friends on this day.

Here is something to ponder: Is not the Church constantly praying for those in most need of God’s mercy? Is not our work to call down God’s favor on all those who don’t deserve it, because we ourselves know we don’t deserve it, either? If we know, from words such as Jesus speaks in our Gospel reading, that God has gone to great lengths to save the lost, can we not expect that in some way known only to Him right now, He is answering our prayers for those who most need to know Him? Does not the Feast of All Souls give us hope that leaving this life in God’s friendship, however that happens, is what He intended for every human soul He ever created?

Possible response: Jesus, thank You for making the hope of eternal life possible for all souls who have lived or ever will, including mine and those for whom I pray.

First Reading (Read Wis 3:1-9)

This reading from the Old Testament helps us see something of the mystery of death, as well as life both before and after it occurs. To the foolish, death seems like “an affliction” and “utter destruction.” Indeed, it often seems like that to us! But for “the just,” those who sought to live as God wants us to live, quite the opposite is true. Even the hardships they experienced in life, which might have looked like punishments, in fact were simply God’s way of refining and purifying them, “as gold in a furnace.” His work in their lives made them “worthy of Himself.” Their purification, entirely at God’s initiative, gave them a bright future, full of light (“they shall shine”), wisdom (“they shall judge nations”), knowledge (“those who trust Him shall understand”), and love (“the faithful shall abide with Him in love”). So, if the just, after departure from this life, were asked about those trials and difficulties sent from God, do we think they would complain or warn others about them? Or, do we expect they would say those sufferings were a blessing, because they prepared them to live eternally in the “grace and mercy” of God?

Possible response: Heavenly Father, forgive me when I miss an opportunity to be refined like gold in the trials that come my way. Give me eyes to see You in them.

Psalm (Read Ps 23:1-6)

This psalm, so familiar to many of us, never fails to communicate the peace and hope that pervades the life of a soul lived in friendship with God. It describes His refreshment and bounty even in the most difficult times in life, times when we “walk in the dark valley,” or live in the sight of our “foes.” For God’s friend, there is no fear of evil; instead, there is every hope of God’s “goodness and kindness” through all the days of our lives and beyond into eternity. On a day like today when we are thinking about life as God’s friend and all the joy it holds, we will want to sing: “The Lord in my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

Possible response: The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read Rom 5:5-11)

St. Paul takes up the great truth upon which all our hope for ourselves and for the sinful world for which we constantly pray rests: “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by His Blood, will we be saved through Him from the wrath.” God’s plan is to save us from eternal death (a just punishment on our sin) and to sanctify us, to make us pure and holy as He is. St. Paul says this simply makes sense: “If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by His life.” Once we become God’s friends through faith, we can count on His love to do the work He began in us through that faith, restoring us to His “image and likeness” lost through sin. That work of restoration begins in this life. Every hour of every day gives us an opportunity to let God do His work of purification in us. When the hour of our death arrives, God alone knows if more work is necessary to make us fit to live in His presence forever. If so, He will do it. The purgation of Purgatory is His glorious, loving work of complete liberation of our souls from every trace of sin. Anyone who leaves this life in His friendship longs for this, especially those whose friendship with God came at the very end of a life not lived for Him. They, more than any, will, when the work is complete, “boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Possible response: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us too much to leave us in our imperfections. The death of Christ saves us; the life of Christ renews us. Such hope!

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