In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking from the same place He was for the Last Supper. In this passage Jesus is giving us His last will and testament. What is He going to leave to His followers? His love. That love includes not only Himself, but the Father and Holy Spirit. He fulfills His Last Supper promise: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14: 15-16) Jesus did die on the cross, but He did not leave us. As we see in His words He will come and dwell within us and the Father will come with Him. A few verses later Jesus promises to send us the Holy Spirit. Our inheritance from Him is the fullness of the life of God. We began that life the moment we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (We remind ourselves of this treasure every time we bless ourselves in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)
When you think about it, those we love do dwell within us. They are an intimate and intricate part of who we are. They are always in our hearts that are filled with love for them expressed in our concern, goodness, gratitude, humility, sacrifices, mercy, and generosity. In this Gospel passage Jesus expressed what was going to happen when He died and rose from the dead. Our inheritance from Him is the gift of Himself, the Father, and Holy Spirit dwelling within us. How does this inheritance affect our lives? The more we “use” our inheritance from Jesus, the more we recognize the gift of peace that He also promises in today’s Gospel: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” This is the peace we long for as individuals, families, communities, nations, and worldwide. Human efforts have helped us to defeat the countless powers that seek to separate us from God and one another (just ask a faith-filled veteran). Yet still, in all too many places around the world, there is violence, injustice, destruction and the abuse and taking of human life.
So, what is this peace Jesus is leaving us? It is the peace that comes from truly believing that He knows us as we are at each moment of our lives and is with us in all we say, do and think each day. This thought is expressed so clearly at the beginning of each of the four Eucharistic Prayers (for Various Occasions): “You are indeed Holy and to be glorified, O God, Who love the human race and Who always walk with us on the journey of life. Blessed indeed is Your Son, present in our midst when we are gathered by His Love, and when, as once for the disciples, so now for us, He opens the Scriptures and breaks the bread.” Obviously we need to accept His invitation to be renewed by our inheritance from Him through our heartfelt participation in the Mass every week. Jesus never tires of inviting us to open our eyes to His Love for us and His Presence to us. It is Jesus and our inheritance from Him, which is Jesus Himself, that lifts us beyond the confusion, challenges, and obstacles we face as individuals, families, communities, and nations. Only a nation under God can be one nation. It takes God to not only take away the confusion…but also to enlighten us with the truth of who we truly are and what we are ultimately capable of in the best sense possible.
This weekend we celebrate All Saints’ Day…it’s the annual Feast Day where we acknowledge and applaud all of the men and women who have gone before us and now live in everlasting peace and happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven. (…remembering, heaven is certainly our goal too!) Heaven is ours if we sincerely want to go there. And so, the Church celebrates the many souls who reside in Heaven…ones who have been named as Saints and many more who are unknown to us. By declaring certain souls to be in Heaven, the Church gives us many models of what it takes to win the crown of heavenly glory. (Those to be confirmed this year know this truth better than most because they are asking themselves which saint they wish to take on as their own confirmation name. And, those who have been confirmed…do you remember the saint you chose to be modeled after for the rest of your life? Mine was a Roman by the name of St. Patrick!)
This Feast is always a Holy Day of Obligation which means that all Catholics are required to attend its Mass; and, this year, Nov. 1st is on Sunday! God is good. And, because a Solemnity even trumps a Sunday Liturgy…we will celebrate the Day to All Saints!
After the pilgrim Church on earth celebrates the triumphant Church in Heaven, logically, the next celebration is for pilgrim and triumphant Church celebrating with all the dead…All Souls’ Day. It’s then that we remember in a special way all of our family members and friends who have died…and we continue to offer prayers for them throughout the whole month of November. What exactly are we praying for? Well if they are in Purgatory, (or any souls in Purgatory) our prayers serve to lessen the intensity and shorten the duration of their purification there.
As Catholics, we believe that all sins wound the body of Christ. Sins are forgiven by the Mercy of God, but His Divine Justice demands that reparation of the wounds be made. Some people make reparation for their sins in this life, some do it in Purgatory. Once a soul is in Purgatory it can no longer make reparation for itself; it must rely on the prayers and good works of the living that are offered up for them, because the soul is incomplete without the body. So…we have the custom of offering Masses for our loved ones who have died. If our loved ones are in Heaven they have no need of our prayers and Almighty God will direct our prayers where they are most needed. But, if our loved ones are undergoing purification in Purgatory, then our prayers will serve to ease and shorten their time there (“…until you have paid the last penny.” cf. Matt 5:26, Luke 12:59 & Matt 18:33)
In your envelope boxes, the “All Souls” Mass envelopes are found with spaces to write the names of loved ones. I have said this over and over again (…but…it’s worth repeating), the envelope is NOT MEANT FOR MONEY COLLECTION…it’s there for the convenience of NAME COLLECTION (just as the memorial book is). With the names placed on the altar, we will pray as a universal (catholic) Church throughout the month of November for these souls. You’re invited to submit them after listing the names of your deceased family members and friends…simply place the envelopes in the Sunday collection basket (or on St. Joseph’s Altar) and celebrate their lives as we prepare for the coming of Christ the King.