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All Souls Day

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/10/30 at 12:00 AM

As we celebrate this important Feast of All Souls on which Holy Mother Church calls us to pray for the souls of all those who have gone before us, it is right and just that we should also spend some time meditating on this one reality that all of us must face.

Without question this is a day that we remember our deceased loved ones, as our prayers illustrate for us, but it is also a day in which we are called to meditate on our own death and the hope of eternal life that we bear as Christians.
We are reminded of this 2-fold purpose for this feast most starkly by the catafalque that stands at the foot of the sanctuary, but as well in the vestment that I wear.
While the vestment I wear is black to symbolize our mourning for the dead, it is trimmed in silver to remind us that, in our mourning, we are called all the more to bear witness to our hope in the resurrection of all men – even our own resurrection.
Indeed, from a Christian perspective, death is something to hope for, to long for, even though our weak human nature is inclined to fear it and fight it.
Many of the saints of our Catholic faith have written about death, but perhaps none has written so eloquently on this topic as the good St. Ambrose.
St. Ambrose is truly a saint of great distinction. Not only is he one of the four great Western fathers of the Church, he is perhaps the only man in Church history to be baptized, and to be ordained a deacon, priest, and bishop all within a week’s time.
A capable administrator and an ardent lover of the poor, St. Ambrose was also a courageous man, who took on even emperors face-to-face to secure the rights of the Church when he couldn’t win them over with his eloquence.
But for all of his steely composure, St. Ambrose was also a very tender and loving man, and upon the death of his beloved brother, Satyrus, Ambrose suffered greatly. But he found relief from his sorrow through meditating and writing upon death.
St. Ambrose wrote so beautifully that Christians should have: “a daily familiarity with death, a daily desire for death,” because ultimately death is the great remedy for our concupiscence and earthly desires.
While we live on this earth, our fallen nature is often at war with our faith and reason. While we know by faith and reason that we should desire God above all else and work diligently to cultivate virtue, the propensity to sin that we inherited from our first parents often gets the better of us.
As St. Ambrose wrote that: “Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrows and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness.” But God’s mercy limits this sorrow, and death restores to us what life has forfeited.
In a sense, our lives as Christians are one long labor to recover the lost innocence and perfect ordering of our souls that was lost in the Garden when Adam and Eve sinned.
That original sin of our first parents resulted in a wound of concupiscence that we all now bear, a wound that that we must seek to heal through the cultivation of the virtues and the courageous rejection of all that is contrary to God’s will.
And if we have labored strenuously throughout our lives on earth to find healing for this wound – if we’ve labored for holiness – then our death is the final remedy for that terrible wound.
So then death is not a cause for mourning; it is not something to be avoided. St. Ambrose tells us rather, that death is the cause of man’s salvation!
Of course this is only true provided that we turn away from the wickedness of this world, that we turn away from the enticements of sin and the deceits of the devil.
Some day we will face our Creator and have to make an accounting of our lives. Our death is truly the most important moment of our entire life, for it is in this dramatic moment that our eternal destiny is decided!
Our eternal fate will rest upon the state of our souls and the attitude we have before God at that moment our souls slip away from our mortal bodies.
Considering the absolute importance of this moment, it is imperative that we prepare well for our deaths. If we are well prepared, our death can be a moment of tremendous grace and mercy. If not, our death can lead us to everlasting horror.
While it is true that God never leaves any soul without His divine aid, most especially in this moment of supreme importance, our Lord will not force His grace upon us.
Priestly ministry has taught me that most of us die as we’ve lived. For those who have lived in that peace that only comes from doing God’s will, or who have earnestly repented, they usually die peacefully and filled with hope.
But for those who have fought or ignored God’s will in this life, death approaches as a frightening specter of darkness and gloom.
In short, whoever lives his life in union with God’s will; whoever has chosen for God in this life will generally have no problem choosing God and His mercy at this last and decisive moment of his life.
But for those who ignore God throughout life and choose their own will instead of His, salvation will only come through a miracle of God’s mercy.
So as we mourn for our loved ones and pray for the happy repose of their souls, let us not forget to meditate on our own death, nor should we ever forget that death can come at any moment, even when we least expect it.
With this in mind, let us live our lives for God. Let us honestly repent of all of our sins and ask for our Lord’s mercy.
In all things, let us always trust in our Lord’s promise of mercy: both for ourselves, and for those who have already died.

02 November 2013

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