A Catholic woman repaints the grave of her family members at a cemetery in Hyderabad, India, in preparation for All Souls' Day on Nov. 2. (Photo: AFP)
Death always leaves us with a sense of loss, a sense of something diminished. Someone was there and is there no longer, someone beloved for whom we grieve and mourn. Often too we are angry with God and cry: Why this to me? Why?Usually, our sense of death is negative. That’s why most of us are frightened of death and put it out of our minds.On every second day of November, Catholics celebrate one of the big feasts of the Church: All Souls' Day. On this day Christians all the world over remember their loved ones departed from this life into God’s mercy. Catholics pray for them and light candles to their memory.
To answer this question, I ask another question: what is your vision of life? Everyone, but everyone, has a vision of how to live, what to do — or not do — to live happily and successfully. You’ve learned this from your parents, your home. You’ve picked this up from your friends, your peer group. You’ve shaped your vision according to what the media tell you.What is your vision of life? In other words, what is your faith? What do you believe in? Does it all come to a full stop with death, or does it reach ... beyond?In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus says: “Whoever sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life.” What is this eternal life? Is it your life in the Spirit?As we move from childhood into adulthood in this world of space, time and sensation — growing older, stronger, smarter; sometimes happy, sometimes sad; angry, ambitious, friendly, hostile; picking up relatives, friends, experiences along the way and gathering wealth, success, failure, disease and even more experiences — we sometimes pause and ask ourselves, what is it which makes me happy? What would make me very fulfilled, give me a sense of accomplishment?And we realize that it’s not so much "out there" that the fulfillment comes but rather "in here" — something mysterious within me: This what life in the Spirit is.It’s the only real life that is. It’s our life of creativity and imagination. Our life of thought and understanding. Our life of transparency and goodness, compassion, integrity, generosity, relationships with others and, most of all, our friendship with God, with Jesus. “Whoever sees the Son and believes in him ... trusts him, commits himself/herself to him ... has eternal life.
And this eternal life keeps growing in us until that one day, when God calls out to you, "Come. You’re ready."And we cry out in reply, "No! I’m not ready. I haven’t made all the money I wanted to. I’ve not loved my family, my friends, enough. I’m not ready, all these prizes are waiting for me, I’m not famous enough."And the Lord persists: "Come, you’re more ready now than you will ever be. I love you, and I’ve chosen you to come now, at this — the very best time of your life. Trust me! Come! Enter into eternal life. The fullness, the abundance of your life in the Spirit." For this is what death really is, not an ending but a beginning, our passage into the fullness of life in the Spirit.So do not just pray for those who are departed, pray to them. Converse with them. Let them into your deepest thoughts and desires, even as you would when they were here on earth. Ask their help, their guidance. Ask them to reveal what God wants of you. In the world of the spirits, they are closer to you than those sitting next to you at home.This is what we call the Communion of Saints, the first of the two great feasts on successive days. Who are the saints? Men and women who help each other, support each other, reach out across time and space as messengers of God’s love. Men and women who enjoy the abundance of life in the Spirit.Where the saints have gone, we will follow them sooner than later. So never be frightened, never be afraid of death. We know that we have passed through death into life because we love each other. So wrote John in his epistle.And as we pass from this life into that other glorious life, the cry on our lips is, "Alleluia, Praise the Lord!"
Father Myron Pereira SJ is a media consultant based in Mumbai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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