But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows how empty certain phrases seem. “They’re in a better place now.” It sounds almost like a write off. The afterlife is treated as an afterthought, something we only bring up to console ourselves when we are faced with the pain of separation from our family members and friends. We do not like to take time to think about life and death and what it all means. Perhaps if we did, we would consider the greater separation. This life is a painful valley where we are able to be separate from God. Death is the end of this life, but the beginning of our eternal one. Our reading from the book of Wisdom reminds of this reality, that death only appears to be a punishment. It only appears that way when we are living only for this world. If we live for this world alone, death is the end point, and is certainly something to mourn. But if we live for God everyday, and if we look forward to being with him for all eternity, death is only a journey.
God created us for eternal life with him. Though he created us to have that life on earth, through sin we are separate from God’s dream for us. God did not permit us to just be lost in our sin. He reached through our own personal darkness, offering us grace that we did not ask for and that we do not deserve. And he gives us the great assurance that he will never turn anyone away who seeks him with a sincere heart. We are called today and every day to think about the end of this life and the beginning of the next one. Our desire to be joined to God in heaven should shape our day to day relationship with God. We should be more motivated to call on God in times of temptation and trial, remembering that there is a life beyond this current moment. It is a life we can accept or reject every day in how we live our lives.
With God’s assurance of salvation for those who accept the grace of Jesus, we live with a different hope. We know that God’s grace exceeds our sinfulness, and we know that his sorrow at our separation is greater than our sorrows at the passing of our loved ones. On this feast day, the feast of all souls, we pray in a special way for every person that has gone before us, Christian and non-Christian alike. We pray for God’s grace and mercy on their souls, and we ask for their intercession for us as we endeavor to follow Jesus more closely.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for your boundless mercy. Today, I give to you everyone who has gone before me to meet you. I pray for the grace for their salvation. I pray for grace for my salvation. Help me to keep my focus on you and the eternal rewards you promise to your faithful. May my love for you increase every day. Help me to receive your love in a greater way to help me turn away from sin. Amen.