Daily Reflection

Today we commemorate the faithful departed (All Souls Day).  Throughout the year at each Mass, we pause to remember those who have gone before us.  Often, I think about and pray for those who were closest to me, including my father, my wife’s parents, and our uncles and aunts.  Sometimes I pause long enough to go back even further in the family tree, or to think about friends and neighbors we have known and loved.

It is good to recall that we are not alone in our journey.  As a convert to Catholicism, I was attracted by the beauty of the litany of the saints and by the idea of prayer and worship binding all the committed faithful together across the division of time and space.   There is a cloud of witnesses joining together with us, and sometimes we can sense it even more powerfully than the reality of the natural world around us. We are supported by love and encouraged in hope.  We do not fully comprehend this reality, but we know that it is something greater and more powerful than anything else we have known.

The mystery and hope of salvation was the subject of the encyclical Spe Salvi (2007), which states in part:  “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”  There are conditions here, of course, marked by “if”.  But in each case, our faith answers “yes”.

Hope resonates from the reading in the Book of Wisdom, which speaks comfort regarding those just ones who have gone before us.  Goodness and mercy resonate through Psalm 23, reflecting consolation and peace in the midst of a world that knows enmity and strife.  Love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit; we shall not be the same sinners we once were after this encounter.  And finally, we have a trustworthy promise from our Lord himself:  resurrection to eternal life with Him.

We long for the realization of these promises, and even though we do not understand them fully, we know that they will bring to us that which we lack in our present state:

In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown “thing” is the true “hope” which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts, whether positive or destructive, directed towards worldly authenticity and human authenticity. The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Spe Salvi ¶ 12 (2007).

We may lack all the answers, but we have been given enough to draw us forward in faith to the light of hope and salvation, which only God can give us.  Let us remember that we are not alone in being drawn, but we stand in a long line with others who have gone before, and who are still with us as they wait for us to join them.  Thanks be to God.