The first reading for today’s Mass from the Letter to the Hebrews helps us understand a common prayer that said when people die. “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.”
Why do we wish those who die “rest in peace?”
The Book of Genesis says that God “rested” on the seventh day after completing the work of creation. God’s rest was a time of delight in what was done, and so we wish that those who die experience delight for the life they led on earth and the new life they share with God.
That doesn’t mean they will forget those they leave behind or the world they no longer live in. When Jesus rose from the dead he entered into his rest, but his work was not done on earth. God’s Kingdom must still come. As our High Priest, who shared our human life and its weakness and death, he continues to intercedes for us on earth.
Like Jesus, those whom God calls into his rest still love this world and those still journeying here. They don’t forget us. Resting in God, they’re restless like Jesus till God’s kingdom come. Given a clearer sight as they commune with God, they accompany us on our way. They’re in blessed communion with us, a communion of saints.