2 November – All Souls Day
Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.
– Patron Saint Index
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.
Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.
When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’
When the sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.
They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But when they looked they could see that the stone – which was very big – had already been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right-hand side, and they were struck with amazement. But he said to them, ‘There is no need for alarm. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him.’
The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want
Most of us city dwellers have never seen a sheep nor a shepherd. I have seen a few while I was growing up in the suburbs and sometimes, in the fields near the campus I work at. There are still cow herds and shepherds in Malaysia. For most of the people I know, the term shepherd is made in reference to Jesus predominantly. 2000 years later as Catholics, we are used to referring to Jesus, our bishops and priests as our shepherds.
In a self-seeking and driven world it can be quite a challenge to accept bible verses such as “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” and “His grace is sufficient for me”. It takes a lot of dependence, trust and surrender – things that the world will sum up as weaknesses. Logically, can this be true? That all we need is our shepherd and His grace? We all know that He is our mighty teacher and one who never lies to us nor deceives us, and that alone is a clear indication that He is all we need.
Personally, I recite Psalm 23 when I am walking down a secluded alley in the dark, alone. On one particular night in 2008, when I was in Venice, I went out on my own to watch a jazz performance. After wandering about, I realised that I had alighted at the wrong water taxi stop. Feeling rather adventurous, I thought I could walk through the canals and reach my hostel that night. However, after walking alone for some time and with no one in sight, I started whispering to myself, “When I walk through the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear.” It is a very powerful prayer and I have prayed this many times, especially while travelling alone.
However, I realise that trying to fully embrace ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’ takes me out of my own human nature. I constantly have many wants — I want to travel, I want to cook all the cute dishes, I want to spend more time with my loved ones, I want to be able to pay all my bills seamlessly and I want to have beautiful babies. So wanting to submit to my Lord, though He is worthy, can be somewhat of a tall order. I love to be in control of the situation and its outcomes. Lately however, I realised how my controlling nature is detrimental to submitting to God and trusting Him totally. At that point, I also had a strong desire to want to honour my parents, especially my father, without seeing the connection. By the grace of God, I came to know that I had to let my father lead me, love me and nurture me in his own terms and that required trust and maturity on my part. The more I began to release the ‘controlling ways’ in our relationship, the more I began to see what a wonderful man (and father) he really is. Therefore, submitting to him is truly worthy and warranted of me. I find myself reflecting on how I can truly depend on him and trust him and love him. I acknowledge that honouring my father has helped so much in this process; after all, we are still talking of the Father’s Love. As a woman, I foresee this trait will be crucial in my relationship with my future spouse as well.
Today, if you are a single woman, are you submitting to your father? And, as a married woman, are there areas in your life that may be holding you back from submitting to your husband? Men, are you honouring your wife the way Christ honours sinners like us, in order for us to be one with Him? As single men, are you honouring your mothers who love you more than she loves herself? As children of God, are we prepared to honour the One true God as our shepherd, allowing Him to father us, mould us and lead us and to live as if He is all we will ever need.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Daddy God, you are worthy of local trust and submission. Help us Lord to be faithful to you and to trust you in every season of our lives. Forgive us for the times we have failed to let you be God.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and for the hope that you have given us through the Holy Spirit. We thank you, dear God, for keeping all our loved ones who have gone before us safe in your loving embrace.