In her book, the Mystery of Death, German theologian Dorothee Soelle writes “These days of November…make me remember. They send me to the cemetery, at least inwardly. They make me aware that I am not the giver of my own life. Into the cloak of life is woven all the affection and tenderness of the people who are no longer here and whom I remember.
At one time or another all of us will have to deal with bereavement and sometimes even carry around unresolved grief. Having to deal with the death of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences we endure in this life. When my Mum died in 2016, it felt like my heart was broken.
As we read in the Gospels, Jesus knew the anguish and pain of death and he felt the desolation and loss of his Father at that moment. Even in our deepest sorrows Christ understands what we go through when the loss of a loved one seems too much to bear and we are asked to deal with the resulting grief and loneliness.
There is something very comforting for us in remembering our beloved dead. Writing their names in our memorial book, lighting a candle, having Masses offered, visiting their graves if possible and placing flowers there are tangible ways of reconnecting with them and keeping them close to our hearts.
For us in the Catholic tradition we are invited to pray for our dead especially throughout this month. We believe our communion with them crosses the boundaries of space and time. We remember them to God because they are still part of us and we are still part of them. We believe our prayers assist them to enjoy the fullness of the Resurrection and we pray that our continued love and remembrance of them and our trust and hope in the Risen Christ will allow the stone of our grief and sorrow to be rolled away.
The readings in today’s Mass present the deep conviction and hope in the Resurrection.
The story of the brothers and their mother in the Book of Maccabees being tortured and put to death by the king, martyrs of the pre-Christian era, sees a family prepared to face death because they relied on the promise that God would raise them up.
The Psalm expresses great hope in the words…. ‘I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory’.
Jesus in the Gospel (Luke 20:27-38) in responding to the question by the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the Resurrection speaks of a place in the other world and children of the resurrection being sons and daughters of God and that all of us living and dead are alive to God.
Belief in the Resurrection is a gift and faith is not given to everyone, St Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians. I often hear people say who do believe, I don’t know how people cope when faced with the death of a loved one without faith. And it is true that despite all the pain of loss when we lose someone close to us our faith is a deep comfort, ‘Blessed indeed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted’. There is the hope that one day we shall meet again when it is our turn to pass from this life into eternal life. We can still be present to them and speak to them in prayer because God has us all in view. Christ is the bridge and our common destiny.
Do you have that sense sometimes that those you have lost are near to you? Or something surprises you, a song, the scent of flowers, food cooking or you visit a familiar place that brings your loved one to mind. I think those things are very precious and remind us that they are still with us, part of us, touching our hearts.
I have written several songs about this experience. You might like to listen to ‘Remember,’ from ‘A Place at the Table". I was down by the sea and thoughts of my father who has been gone 34 years now surfaced. The song may tap into your own experience to sit with and ponder.
Eternal rest grant to them O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them
May they rest in peace.