Yesterday, All Saints Day, the Church celebrated that part of the communion of saints traditionally known as “the Church Triumphant” – not just the Church’s many officially recognized saints, but all those holy ones, known and unknown, who have attained the goal for which we on earth still strive. Living now forever with God, the saints help us by uniting their prayers with ours, thus uniting their intercession for us before God.
Today, All Souls Day, our focus is rather on all the rest of those who have died in God’s mercy and who were pleasing to God at their passing from this life. Every day, at every Mass, but especially today, we pray that they may be welcomed into the light of God’s face and be given kind admittance to his kingdom, along with the saints already in glory.
Last summer while vacationing in New York, I visited Gate of Heaven Cemetery where 2 of my grandparents, an uncle, an aunt, my father, and most recently one of my sisters are all buried. Remembering is a profoundly human activity. To remember our relatives and friends who have died is to acknowledge the importance of their lives - and the common humanity we share with them. To remember those who have gone before us in faith is to celebrate the different ways in which the grace of God touched and transformed each one of them - and the hope we share with them.
We also remember today all those parishioners who have been part of the life of our parish community, who quite literally built this parish - if in no other way than by virtue of their personal presence. The Parish Death Registers record the names of those, whose funerals have been celebrated here in our parish. What an extensive human history those names represent! Some, we confidently hope, are already among those saints honored yesterday, while others may still be undergoing a process of purification, prior to their entrance into the full joy of heaven, and so may be the beneficiaries of our intercessory prayer on their behalf. What a wonderful network of holy souls whom we hope today to help by our prayers - and who in turn we hope are praying for us!
All those people, most of whom none of us have ever met! Today, however, we remember them all.
They have all gone before us in faith, in hope, and in love. And today, we remember them all.
Homily for All Souls Day, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville, TN, November 2, 2012.