Faith Matters – Eternal14 Nov 2018
You may have noticed that things have changed. The weather is different now. It has changed and the trees are all green. Spring is now actually here. As soon as Halloween passed the Christmas decorations and festive foods were put on the shelves at the shops. The Cup has been run and we are now reminded in the media that there are only ‘six weeks until Christmas!’.
November is the month where we are prompted to pause and reflect on what has passed as the end of the year is so near. In our Church we pause in November to reflect also. During this month we remember all who have passed from their earthly life into their eternal life where they have been reunited with the Father. At the beginning of the month we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. It should be noted that contemporary theology brings into question the need for All Souls Day. Catholic eschatological understandings are quite different since Vatican II. However, this thought aside, what is important is that we as a community pray in intercession for those who have died, and who enter into their immortal and eternal life.
We are people of the Resurrection. We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice and his return prove that what he promised in his revelations about the Kingdom are true. Although we love our earthly life we do not fear death. Death is not a loss. Death is not an end. Death is simply a change.
What death does though is significant and painful for those who are left to mourn. We who are left suffer because of death. We are no longer able to talk to them, touch them, we can’t call them on the phone, pop in for a cuppa or simply have them physically present. This can be an excruciating realisation. Learning to live without the person physically takes courage and time. As we learn to encounter and love them spiritually we are able to find peace and joy. Joy as we know we will be with them again and when we are reunited in heaven it will be completely perfect.
Death makes us value more what is physically present. When we go to Mass or in the liturgy we may become more aware of what we are actually doings. When we come together in faith we are doing many things. One of the important aspects that we sometimes overlook is the spiritual. When we offer the words ‘And with your spirit’, we actually mean it. When we offer the ‘sign of peace’, we are doing so in two different dimensions – physical and spiritual. Death can offer us insights that help us to be more aware of how limited our earthly life is and how superficially we actually engage with the world and the gift of time.
St Paul explains our faith beautifully in his first letter to the Corinthians in saying:
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
We cannot return to the Father during our earthly life. We cannot be perfect in this state. We can only be made whole in death. Death that is not to be feared or troubled over. Death is to be respected and avoided as best we can.
Our life is a gift and all that we do should show love for God and others. The Lord created the universe so that we might live and experience Creation. Creation offers us so many opportunities and choices. We have also been offered the gift of free will and although we are not perfect, we each individually do good in the world and bring God’s love into the world.
When we remember those who have died we most often mourn the good they have done for us or the love that they offered. We might therefore be inspired by them in death as we reflect on their lives. We are left here without their physical presence. We can continue their work of love. Their legacy does not end with their death but inspires us to new and exciting opportunities to love as they did. We continue their story here in this world.
In mourning loved ones remember that they have entered into the fullness of love and continue this with Jesus eternally in watching over and interceding for us in heaven. This is our faith. We believe that they have now been made whole and perfect in every way. They are saints. Their love continues and our memory of them endures.
I pray that you find peace in this month of remembrance and share that peace with all people. I pray also that reflecting on these things that you become more aware of the gift that is time – may we all treasure it and use it well.Brendan Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius, Geelong.