Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wednesday word, 02 Nov 2011

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (02 Nov 2011)
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 24 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 with a subtle and insistent tug. Every year I am aware sometime during October 24 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 this evening 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. Our venerable belief is the reason our cemeteries remember saints by their names (St. Anthony, St. Boniface St. Joseph, Mary, Queen of Peace and St. Teresa are in our diocese). Cemetery names also remember the divine mystery (as does Trinity Cemetery in our diocese); as well as events in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection (Calvary and Gate of Heaven are cemeteries in our diocese). Even before we bury our dead, at each funeral, we especially commit the deceased to the angels and the martyrs:
May the angels lead you into Paradise.
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.3
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.4 It is of great significance, St. Augustine replied, 
where a person [inters] the body of his dead...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.5
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 remember-ing us. When the Trinity remem-bers us their remembering surpasses human memory because the Trinity creates us moment by moment as Father, Son, Holy Spirit remember us. So that would be less abstract and more concrete, Jesus showed great affection for his disciples in every age by giving his body and blood to nourish us on our pilgrim way through life6 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 24. 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 angels and martyrs welcome him, he connects me more closely with them, you, and in particular, all priests of the diocese, for whom I am a spiritual director.

Your beloved dead remain present to you. Beloved dead: such an accurate phrase! The dead stir our affections, even if we never knew them. Recall the stirrings within us when we read about a death in the newspapers; when we see the regular, silent parade of photos and names of young soldiers on The Newshour; or within you as I began this homily. While we remember the dead and pray for their refreshment, light and peace, the dead also remember us. Their affection for us can never die; instead it increases and flourishes.
So don’t allow your prayers for the dead to be a one-way street. Don’t allow your prayers for the dead to numb you to the ways they remember you with affection; how they desire to present you to Jesus. When you close your praying for the dead
  • Allow them to present you to Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer.
  • Speak with Jesus about the ways your affection chooses Jesus, and Jesus’ affection chooses you.
  • Ask for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly.
  • Desire two things: to grow more aware of his Father’s affection for us and how they desire us to grow more intimately connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased; and to act on our desire by the ways we live the church’s faith—Jesus’ faith—each day we are alive.
  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. Order of Christian Funerals 176, 203, 294, 315, 339.
  4. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead. Sixteen times in its 23 sections: Sections 5; 6 (3 times); 7 (4 times); 9 (3 times); 10; 11 (2 times); 22 (2 times).
  5. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 7.
  6. Prayer after Communion, Order of Christian Funerals, 410.
Wiki-images by Concord of Baltimore's Holy Redeemer Cemetery and by Algirdas at the Lithuanian language Wikipedia of a grave on All Souls Day are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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