Wisdom 3, 1-9 + Psalm 42 + Romans 5, 5-11 + John 6, 37-40
Autumn comes now. The crops are in. Here in Oklahoma, the seed for the next harvest is in the ground. The days are short, and the nights are long and chilled. The breeze no longer refreshes as in the summer, and it will soon become the sharp cold winter wind we know too well. Halloween has come and gone. The laughter of the children and their delight in costumes and candy is stilled, and the temptation for all of us is to look back on picnics, the pool, vacations, and long lazy sunsets is strong. Saying good bye to all of that which we have enjoyed is not something we relish, but it is something we do. Farewell is a part of this season, and it is a part of this day.
This season and this feast can remind us that death, just like life, is a gift. While from one side it looks like a separation, our faith suggests another side that is reunion, or a coming together of what life has separated. Yet a world short on faith, and long on denial would, it seems, prefer to concentrate on the separation. The gift of death, of course, is lost on a world that looks with disdain on surrender and helplessness choosing always power and self-determination in opposition to Divine power and God’s determination. A culture of death is really a culture of power. Rather than accept the weakness of death and surrender to the fullness of life death can provide, there are those today who seize every opportunity to take control of death itself and tell the Creator of Life that they are in charge or would like to be.
So we live in a time when euthanasia seems to appeal to some and is promoted as being merciful and humane when it fact it is simply a fancy name for suicide: a final act of defiance in the face of our Creator and the Lord of Life. It is one more sign, as if we needed any more that we are living in a godless age when faith and the hope it provides are only a convenience and at best an ideology.
The real Christian and always the Catholic stance is clearly on the side of life no matter what it looks like or how it feels. Death is still and always the great sign of our limit, and the constant reminder that we are not really free. What is revealed in Jesus Christ is that death is a gift, a way of living that provides an assurance that in surrender and helplessness one can discover the strength of the peace of Christ.
The beauty of November and the wonder of All Souls Day is that without dying there is no fullness to life. Out of the decay of what has lived and died comes the beauty and fruit of what will live tomorrow. This day and this season teaches us that whatever is surrendered in faith is what gives life to the world. Weakness and sickness are reminders to us all that this is not our home and that the life we have here is never quite full. Suffering awakens us to the possibility of a future when there will be no sickness and every tear will be wiped away. To avoid this is to separate one’s self from the one who will raise us up.
We remember today those who have suffered, who have found through their surrender to death the fullness of life. We believe that they are all around us here and that they fill this place with glory, and so one with them in the Bread of Life, we surrender to the truth of our weakness and the power it has to transform and transfigure us into Life itself.