Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Homily at Parish Mass, All Souls 2014

Wisdom 3:1-9
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 5:19-25

Giles Fraser was writing recently in the Guardian on the difference between Christian and Humanist funerals. The latter tend to be eulogies, speeches about how good or kind the deceased was, or what they had achieved in their life.

But this assumes there is something good to talk about. What if there isn’t? Fr Fraser talked about his experience in conducting the Christian funerals of murderers and paedophiles. What would an atheist have to say?

Christian funerals are not primarily about eulogising the dead. In fact that is really a very modern custom. Christian funerals are mainly about mercy and hope, commending the departed to the love and mercy of God. Belief in the resurrection is belief in mercy, for resurrection is God bringing something new out of disaster and loss. This means also that we need to believe in judgement. Resurrection and judgement go together as Jesus tells us:

“Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father.”

Judgement means naming sin for what it is and not allowing it the final word. It means God not allowing his loving purposes to be lost. Judgement means everything being brought into God’s light and redeemed. Which as we saw on Sunday is also the meaning of All Saints day. All Saints and All Souls are two sides of the same coin.

Judgement, mercy and resurrection allow us to own the truth about ourselves and not despair. Judgement gives us hope, because we are judged by a loving God. God’s love is greater than our sin. Judgement, mercy and resurrection allow us also to own the truth about those we know who have died. When we admit that even the good are sinners in need of mercy, then we are free to admit the same about those who are not so good, and those about whom we can find very little good to say at all.

With God judgement and mercy go together. In God’s light we see the truth about ourselves, but that light also gives us the opportunity to turn to God and be saved.

So this day, All Souls, we own God’s judgement and claim God’s mercy for those we call the faithful departed. These are not just those who professed Christianity in this life but also those whose faith is known to God alone, who sought God according to the light they had received.

Scripture presents us with two big things we must never lose sight of: the presence of Jesus with us now, the risen Lord who calls everyone to repent and believe in the good news of the Kingdom of God. And the life of the resurrection at the end of time, the new creation when Christ will be all in all.

I think it is because the Bible wants us to focus on these things that it doesn’t say a great deal about the present state of the faithful departed in this inbetween time. But Jesus assures us that the souls of the departed are alive in God’s presence. He said to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, “have you not read what was said to you by God, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.”

Death does not remove us from membership of the Church. The departed are alive in the Body of Christ, even though we see them no more. When we celebrate the Eucharist we stand with the whole Church, living and departed, in celebrating the saving death and resurrection of the Lord. With the whole Church we own God’s judgement and claim God’s mercy.  And so we pray with and for the faithful departed, that the purposes of God’s love may be fulfilled in them, and that they with us may be gathered into God’s kingdom of light and peace.

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