Homily for the Feast of All Souls Day, A 2014
Today is that special day of the year when we commemorate all those who died and reached the heavenly kingdom – those saints whose names we do not know, but are saints nonetheless. And since we need all the help we can get, we pray that we may be helped by those who have gone before and have already received their reward for staying true to the faith.
There are a number of possibilities given to us today for various readings and it is up to the celebrant to pick and choose from them. I have chosen readings from Isaiah, Psalm 23, Revelation and St. Luke.
I want this Mass today to be a celebration – a celebration of what awaits us and a celebration of those who have gone before us and are already experiencing it. Isaiah is certainly celebratory today, foreseeing what Christ was to accomplish and proclaiming in very human terms and imagery what heaven will be like – “a feast of rich food, of well-aged wines.” But it isn’t just the food and drink, but God will wipe away all tears – there will be nothing to be sad about, and there will be no more death. But best of all, we will be with our God – “our Lord for whom we have waited.” Those who have died in Christ are experiencing this now, and the hope is that each of us will as well.
Today’s well-known Psalm, the Lord is my Shepherd, describes not the journey after we die but our journey during this life. The Jews did not at the time of the Psalms believe in an after life the way we do. Most of the Psalms are centered on God doing his good during the lifetime of the individual. And so, in Psalm 23 we walk through dark valleys in life but are not afraid because God is shepherding us, leading us, feeding us, anointing us. We are taken in by the shepherd and dwell in God’s house while we are alive. As Christians we know that this Psalm also refers to what will happen to us after death as well, and that our cups will continue to overflow and we will always be comforted as are the unnamed saints of old.
The short second reading from John’s Revelations tells us that those who have died in the Lord and have done good things while they were alive, will merit the results of those deeds after death and death will be rest from all the good they have done. This hearkens back to the “comfort” offered in Psalm 23. “Blessed are the dead” proclaims God because they have merited their rest and can see God.
Our reading from the Gospel of Luke today is a longer one and is a retelling of the story of the apostles walking to Emmaus after the death of Jesus. It is interesting that this reading was recommended because it seems to have nothing to do with those people who have died and gone to heaven. It is the story of Christ’s appearance to two men who were leaving the area because they were fearful of the events happening after Jesus’ death and rumors of the resurrection of Jesus were being circulated. They do not recognize Jesus but invite the stranger to accompany them on the journey. As they journey they talk about recent events and tell Jesus of their fears and what they have heard. Jesus then begins to explain to them why all of these things had to happen, why it was necessary that Jesus die. Unfortunately we do not have much of this conversation narrated to us, but we can imagine Jesus opening up the Scriptures to them, reading backwards, we might say, and explaining how Moses and the prophets had all prepared the Hebrews for the coming and death and resurrection of Jesus, and how because of that death, was able to enter into the glory of heaven, saving us, and opening heaven up for all who have faith in him to follow. It is, then, the story of how heaven can now be understood in the imagery of Isaiah, as a rich feast, and how Christ has taken away our tears and destroyed death itself. So it is a very appropriate reading for our understanding of how it is possible that we, too, can share in the heaven of the faithful departed who have gone before us.
Coming as we do after the coming of Christ, we are able to participate in this wonderful hope of ours – the kingdom of heaven, that has begun with Christ, continues and will be finally established at some point in history. We know that if we remain faithful, that we too, will share in this heavenly banquet, and we pray today to all those of our families and friends who have faithfully gone before us, will help us, sustain us, give us the strength we need to continue our journey on the right path and intercede for us to God – the God that have before them eternally.
When we say in our Creed each week that we believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, we prove our hope in this great event that is in process now and will each fruition in the future.
Let us pray that those who have gone before us in faith help us along the way and let us rejoice in their victories over death.
And this is the good news of the readings today, and the Good News of our salvation.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A or Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies from amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”] They are different than the ones which will be published here.