All Souls Day, says a homily I received in email this morning from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome, recognizes our fears before the mystery of death. “From the perspective of Gospel wisdom, death teaches us an important lesson because it makes us see reality without filters. It encourages us to recognise the falling away of all that appears great and strong in the eyes of the world. Before death every motive of human pride and jealousy is lost and instead all that is truly worthwhile reappears.”
All Souls Day is a frank admission that we find it hard to face death in ourselves and in others. It’s an experience we cannot prepare for adequately, despite all the resources of faith and reason we have at hand.
Yes, the hope of resurrection encourages us. But as a holy bishop says in our readings for the Office of the Dead:
“As we are saying all these things some unknown feeling causes us to burst into tears; some hidden feeling discourages the mind which tries to trust and to hope. Such is the sad human condition; without Christ all of life is utter emptiness.
“O death! You separate those who are joined to each other in marriage. You harshly and cruelly divide those whom friendship unites. Yet your power is broken…We do not really belong to ourselves; we belong to the One who redeemed us.” (Saint Braulio)
This is day that recognises our “sad human condition” as its struggles to believe. And as our prayer for today says:
“Merciful Father, as we renew our faith in your Son who you raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever an ever. Amen.