Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (José Antonio Pagola)

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In God’s hands

We men and woman of today do not know what to do with death.  Sometimes the only thing that comes into our mind is to ignore it and not to talk about it, to forget this sad event as soon as possible, fulfill the necessary religious or civil formalities, and then get back once again to our daily life.

But sooner or later, death comes visiting our homes and takes away from us our dearest loved ones. How do we react when death takes our mother from us forever?  What attitude do we adopt when our beloved spouse bids us goodbye for the last time?  What do we do in the face of the emptiness that the death of so many friends has left in our life?

Death is a door that each person goes through alone.  Once the door is closed, our loved ones are hidden from us forever.  We do not know what has become of them.  These persons, so dear and so close, are lost to us now in the unfathomable mystery of God.  How do we relate to them?

We followers of Jesus do not just passively take the reality of death.  Trusting in the Risen Christ, we accompany with love and prayer our departed loved ones in their mysterious encounter with God.  There is no desolation, rebellion or hopelessness in the Christian liturgy for the departed.  At its center is found only a prayer of trust: “Into your hands, Father of mercies, we commend the life of our loved one.”

What meaning can these funeral rites have among us today who come together, with diverse sensibilities, to face the mystery of death?  What can we—believers, not so believers, hardly believers, non-believers—do together?

We have, over the years, changed much within.  We have become more critical, but also more fragile and vulnerable; we are more skeptical, but also more insecure.  It is not easy for us to believe, yet it is difficult not to.  We live with lots of doubts and uncertainties, but we do not know how to find hope.

There are times when I usually invite people who come to a funeral to do something that we can all do, each one starting from his or her little faith. I tell them that we can say, from within our heart, to our departed loved one a few words that express our love for him or her and our humble plea to God:

“We continue to love you, but now we do not know how to be in touch with you or what to do for you. Our faith is weak and we do not know how to pray.  But we entrust you to God’s love, we leave you in his hands.  God’s love is for you today a safer place than anything we ourselves can offer you.  Enjoy the fullness of life.  God loves you more than we know how to love you.  One day we will see each other again.”

José Antonio Pagola

November 2, 2014
Commemoration of the departed
Mark 5, 33-39; 16, 1-6

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