Dn 12. 1-3; Ps 23; Col 3. 12-17; Jn 12. 23-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Practice and Affection
Each October 21st comes and goes, and I feel something before I recognize it. Some years its texture is somber; other years it registers as weighty; sometimes I feel an ache; this year it wanted my attention. Every year I am aware sometime during October 21st of a peace, which is bittersweet. On that day in 2001 I presided and preached at the funeral of my father. As I feel his absence from my life the way he was, I also feel his presence to me in a new, more real way. His absent-presence, if I may join those words, shaped my reflection with you today according to the contours of practice and affection.
It has been an ancient practice of the church to pray for the deceased. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning...their names, under a general commemoration.”/1/ Each mass allows the church, at once locally and universally, to solicit for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace./2/
In the 11th Century a French monastery set aside the day after remembering all the saints to commemorate all the faithful departed. Its custom became universal church-practice. The saints are the patrons of those who have died. That ancient belief of ours is the reason our cemeteries contain memorials to saints, bear the names of saints (St. Joseph, St. John, St. Mary as well as All Saints and All Souls are in our diocese) or the names of events in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection (Calvary, Holy Cross, Resurrection are cemeteries in our diocese). At each funeral we especially commit the deceased to the angels and the martyrs:
May the angels lead you into Paradise.When St. Augustine, in the 5th Century, replied to a bishop who wrote him, asking about care for the dead--something which, for many reasons, could not be presumed--St. Augustine frequently mentioned affection, the affection of the living for their loved ones and friends./3/ It is of great significance, St. Augustine replied,
May the martyrs come to greet you on the way.
May they lead you home to the holy city,
to the new and eternal Jerusalem.
where a person [inters] the body of his dead, while he [prays] for his spirit unto God, because both the affection preceding chose a spot which was holy, and after the body is there...the recalling to mind of that holy spot renews and increases the affection which had preceded./4/Affection and remembering are intimately connected. Our affection chooses and our remembering increases our affection.
Commemorating All the Faithful Departed is not only about our affection for and remembering our dead. It’s about the Trinity’s affection for us and remembering us. When the Trinity remembers us their remembering exceeds our memory because the Trinity creates us moment by moment as they remember us.
So that would be less abstract, Jesus showed great affection for his disciples in every age by giving them his body and blood to nourish us on our pilgrim way through life/5/ and to strengthen our identities as created in the divine image and redeemed to be saints.
Our share in his eucharist recreates us; keeps us intimately connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased, and increases our affection for Jesus and one another, living and deceased.
Affection stirs in me each October 21st. My father was my best teacher. I knew that while he was present to me in earthly life. While he is present to me in his new and more real way he teaches me in ways he could not before. As angles and martyrs welcome him, he connects me more closely with them and you.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause to feel the Trinity loving you into being and holding you in being. Ask your patron saint and someone you’ve known, who has gone ahead of you, to present you to Jesus. Speak with your Creator and Redeemer about the ways your affection chooses Jesus and Jesus’ affection chooses you. Ask for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which makes us more aware of his Father’s affection for us and renews our desire to incarnate that affection by how we practice the church’s faith--Jesus’ faith--in our daily lives.
1. St. Augustine, On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 6.
2. Eucharistic Prayer I. Each Eucharistic Prayer remembers the faithful departed with different wording.
3. Ibid., Sixteen times in its 23 sections: Sections 5; 6 (3 times); 7 (4 times); 9 (3 times); 10; 11 (2 times); 22 (2 times).
4. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 7.
5. Prayer after Communion, Rite of Christian Funerals.
Wiki-image by Merkurion of a church on All Soul's Day is used according to the GFDL.