COMMEMORATION OF All SOULS 2014
Halloween weekend – is not just about the ghosts and goblins that the Irish felt ran free on the night before All Saints… but rather a profound MYSTERY ABOUT LIFE. The City of Phoenix sponsored a “Zombie” fest in the neighborhood last weekend. We were supposed to have 20,000 people painted up like the living dead last Saturday evening. It was spooky, but I soon got a little bored. Death does not have the last word about human significance for we Christians. God does. Life counts. Every detail, every cell, every hair on our head is of divine significance.The big solemnities this weekend are full of great beauty for Catholics. Friday night’s Halloween costumes do not match up to the real thing. The Letter to the Hebrews (12:1) calls it a great “cloud of witnesses who surround us…” supporting us and nurturing us toward our best selves. Saturday’s Solemnity of All Saints honors the famous and not so famous heroes, “washed in the blood of the Lamb” who have walked in the footsteps of Jesus in each generation. Sunday is “All Souls Day” (el Dia de los Muertos). It commemorates the dead of our family in the Communion of the Saints. Love is stronger than violence and death and binds us together in an unbreakable bond of intimacy and hope. Halloween gets all the attention. The costumes and decorations go into the stores in late summer. It is the commercial season before Christmas. But if we permit the All Souls mystery near our hearts this weekend, it can take our breath away and leave us awestruck.
All Souls Day celebrations in the past sometimes focused exclusively on purgatory and the necessity of prayers for the souls consigned there. That motivated a lot of Catholics to come to multiple Masses on that day. Up to even three Masses were permitted to pray loved ones to heaven. There is some truth to that teaching, but I prefer to linger on what I have witnessed as a priest around the dying and grieving; a noble, great faith in a God ever near, and attending to his loved ones on the long journey to their truest home. When one witnesses that kind of love it changes everything about the way we live.
I wonder if our picture of heaven needs some revisions. It has been a long time since any poet has looked at the images of the pearly gates and final judgment to see if it still matches what Jesus gave us in the Gospels and his own resurrection. It is more than whether we are naughty or nice, that determines our presence at the great feast. The picture of eternal life in the Gospels starts now. It is a feast with God as the server, waiting on tables. When we wait on fellow human beings and wash their feet we are filled with “a power greater than ourselves.” Around the table of the Eucharist each weekend we get hints of how big that love is that fills all creation. Today, it can fill us with the finest hopes, the strongest sense of family and the most intense human joy. It is so lip smacking good; it goes on and on to eternity like the “Duracell” bunny. It is energy that never ends.
So be patient with the zombies and monsters of the coming days. There is much to celebrate as the bells of St. Mary’s ring each noontime honoring the “Word made flesh” who lives among us.
A gentle week.