2 November 2011 - Mass for the Commemoration of All Souls

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Mass for the Commemoration of All Souls
Cornelian Bay Cemetery
2 November 2011

There is a story in the Jewish tradition  about a family, which consisted of a rabbi, his wife and two sons. Sadly, on a Sabbath day when the rabbi was attending to his teaching duties at the synagogue, the two sons were stuck by a mysterious illness, and they both died very suddenly.

Their Mother laid them out as best she could and covered them with a white sheet. When the rabbi came home for his meal, he asked where the children were, and the wife gave him some excuse, wanting to wait until her husband had finished his meal before acquainting him with the terrible events of earlier in the day.

She did not answer the rabbi’s question, but she asked one of her own. “I am placed in some difficulty” she said to him, “because some time ago, a person entrusted to my care some possessions of great value, which he now wants me to give back. I am unsure what I should do. Am I obliged to return these great valuables?”

The rabbi responded by expressing some surprise that his wife would even ask the question. “There can be no doubt about what you must do. How can you hesitate to restore to everyone what is his own?”

The wife then rose from the table and asked the rabbi to follow her. She took him into the room where the two bodies lay, and pulled back the sheet. The father groaned in pain and then he said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. “Blessed be the name of the Lord. You have always taught me to restore without reluctance what has been lent to us for our happiness. We have to return our sons to the God of all mercies”

Just as Mary was forced to give up her only Son, just as she had to return to God the Father the great gift of life he gave to her in Jesus her Son, so we must learn to return to God, those who have died.

Today we celebrate their sacred memory and we remember them as being the faithful departed. But they are not just “faithful departed” from us; they are faithful returned to God. The faith that we share calls on us not only to lament our loss, but to celebrate their gain. We also pray for their eternal peace.

Like the Jewish woman, we are consoled by our faith in difficult times. While our faith does not diminish our sense of loss, there is another great truth which tell us that all life is a gift from God. Our faith also educates the hope we share that we will return to the source of life, the God of all beginnings.

Death is not a door into the dark, but it is a dark door into the light. Those we have loved and all the faithful departed have passed through that door, and during this Mass we pray for their eternal peace and joy.

Some who do not share our faith, who do not have faith, may  say that we are deceiving ourselves by hoping in heaven, as we do. But we can say with St. Paul “Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Our hope is not wishful thinking but it is grounded in the love of God within us.

Only in that love can we hope; without it, we are helpless. The love of God urges us to believe; urges us to hope; it directs us to the very source of our being. In a peculiar sense, our faith and our hope will only be fully realised in death. Only in death can we face the love that called us by name and calls us to return.

Today, we hold as holy the memory of all the faithful departed, who have been recalled to God. We remember in particular our own family members. I am very conscious that here in this cemetery, are buried my mother and my father, and my father’s parents as well. You will have precious links with people buried here as well: parents and grand-parents, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, close friends and casual acquaintances.

We bless God for the many ways in which they have enriched our lives, our families, our communities, our own life of faith. We pray as we remember their names before God, that they will remember us. The faith and love that bound us together in life, still binds us in their new life.

We pray that their prayers will support our own hope as we continue our journey in faith. Our journey is the road that will take us to eternal joy. As the first of the prefaces of Christian Death tells us:

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death
We gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

May all those who have been brought here to Cornelian Bay, for burial or cremation, now rest in peace.  Amen