Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday word, 02 Nov 14

Affectionate Practice
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed A (02 Nov 2014)
Wis 3. 1-9; Ps 23; Rm 5. 5-11; Jn 6. 37-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When October 24 and April 10 come and go, I feel something before I recognize it. Some years its texture is somber; other years weighty. I have felt an ache; I have felt a subtle, insistent tug. Recently a gentle assurance dawned. Those dates offer me a bittersweet peace. On October 24, 2001, and April 10, 2010, I presided and preached at the funerals of my parents. I feel their absence from me the way each was; I also feel them present to me in new, more real ways. Their absent-presence, if I may join those words, shaped my reflection with you according to our Catholic contours of practice and affection.

Praying for the departed faithful is an ancient practice of the church. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning… their names, under a general commemoration.”1 Each mass allows us, at once locally and universally, to plead for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace.2 

Another practice emerged: a day to commemorate the faithful departed. 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 practice. Its logic is plain: yesterday we venerate[d] in one celebration…all the saints3; it is fitting to commemorate in one celebration all the faithful departed. That logic also reminds that the saints remain patrons of those who died. At the funeral and before we bury our dead, we invoke angels and martyrs to greet them on their way:
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.4
Affection for the dead is as ancient as Catholic practice. In ancient times much threatened care for the dead. A 5th Century bishop wrote St. Augustine about caring for the dead. In replying St. Augustine frequently mentioned affection: the affection of the living for their loved ones and friends.5 Very significant, St. Augustine replied, is

where a person [inters] the body of his dead…because both the affection [in life] 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.6

Affection and remembering are intimately connected. Our affection chooses and our remembering increases our affection. That is true throughout life not only after it.

Commemorating All the Faithful Departed is not only about our affection for and remembering our dead. It includes the Trinity’s affection for us and remembering us. When the Trinity remembers us their remembering surpasses our memory. When the Trinity remembers us Father, Son, Holy Spirit create us—create us each moment.

Jesus made divine remembering concrete. He showed affection. Jesus shows deep affection for his disciples of every age by giving his body and blood. They nourish us on our pilgrim way through life7; they strengthen our shared identity as created in the divine image and redeemed to be saints. Our share in his eucharist recreates us; keeps us closely connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased; it also increases our affection for Jesus and one another, living and deceased.

Affection stirs in me each October and April. My parents are present to me in new and more real ways. As angels and martyrs welcome them, they connect me more closely with them, you, and in particular, the clergy of the diocese, for whom I am a spiritual director.

Your beloved dead remain present to you. Beloved dead: such an accurate phrase! They 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 saw the regular, silent parade of photos and names of young soldiers on The Newshour; when we hear of thousands felled by Ebola; 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 cannot die; 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 numb you to the ways they remember you with affection; how they desire to present you to Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pray for the faithful departed, especially your beloved dead.
  • When you close your praying for the dead, allow them to present you to Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer.
  • Chat with Jesus about the ways your affection chooses Jesus, and Jesus’ affection chooses you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer out of affection for us. Slowly praying it helps us practice the church’s faith—Jesus’ faith—each day we are alive.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  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. Collect for the Solemnity of All Saints, Roman Missal.
  4. Order of Christian Funerals 176, 203, 294, 315, 339.
  5. 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).
  6. Ibid., 7
  7. Prayer after Communion, Order of Christian Funerals, 410.
Wiki-images: On All Souls Day by Klearchos Kapoutsis CC BY 2.0; resurrection of the dead PD-US

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