The Gospel: John 11:17-27
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him,
while Mary stayed at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
After the Gospel:
Today we do one of the things that has always marked us as “Catholics” —
pray for the Dead… continually … hopefully, pray for the dead.
Customs have changed, but not the praying.
In the catacombs, the earliest Christians offered the Eucharistic right at the tombs,
to bring Christ, the resurrection and the life, to their dead, just as Martha had.
A thousand years later, when Saint Bernard wrote the life of St Malachy,
he included Malachy’s praying for his dead sister.
The two men first met when Malachy was Archbishop of Armagh, on his way from Ireland to Rome,
when he stopped by Clairvaux to meet the famous Bernard;
they became such good friends that Malachy obtained five monks to make a foundation at Mellifont, Ireland.
Later on, during a second visit to Clairvaux, Malachy fell ill, died in the arms of St Bernard, was buried at Clairvaux.
In Bernard’s history, St. Malachy didn’t get along with his sister, lost contact with her, then didn’t see her any more before she died. After she died, Malachy heard a voice one night telling him that his sister was hungry, she hadn’t eaten for thirty days. He remembered it was thirty days since he had offered Mass for her. So once again he offered Mass for her, saw her coming up to the church door in a black garment, but she couldn’t enter.
He continued to say Mass for her and the next time she was dressed in a lighter-colored garment. The final time he saw her, she came into the church, dressed in beautiful white, surrounded by blessed spirits.
Not much for historians to look at, but it points out the importance of praying for the dead, reminds us that one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to Pray for the Dead.
Especially nowadays, as they ask if Catholics believe in Purgatory anymore,
Didn’t the Church drop that doctrine?
Today is part of the answer.
If you want to know what the Church believes: Look at how we pray –
What we believe and our prayer are twins that go together.
The Church deliberately puts All Souls Day right next to All Saint’s Day.
Yesterday, we remembered the Saints already in heaven; today, we’re praying for the dead
on their way to heaven.
The key is: On their way …
When we think of our relatives, friends, fellow monks …
they died like us … humans.. with all their bruises and scars,
with all their weaknesses and failings…
not evil, their souls condemned to hell,
but realistically, even though they died in God’s friendship,
still stained by the selfishness and sins of this life,
rendering them unworthy of entering immediately into heaven;
they’re in an intermediate state, a state of purification after death,
a purification that will achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven.
All Souls is a day that takes us back to our roots,
a day of memory, of hope, reminding each of us to expect the mercy and love of Christ.
A day that says: No matter what else changes, never lose your memories as a family, a people,
never lose hope that Christ will accompany us,
that He … the Resurrection and the Life … will be there, waiting with so much love.
Today is our best reminder in the Church year …
How many saints have said:
“All those we’ve known and loved, the ones now our ‘faithful departed’ …
let us not hesitate to help them by offering our prayers for them.”