Theme: Abide with me
All Souls Day remind us of the death of our dear ones and our own death. Today the Church tells us that while the life of the body may die the life of the spirit and the good works accomplished do not die. Our good works accompany the soul on its journey from this life and they are precious in the eyes of the Lord. The way we live now will influence our life after. Many feel that the society has changed from bad to worse.
Life is not as safe and carefree as it was years ago, that we are not caring as we used to be and we are destroying the earth we live on while we don’t have an alternative. One of the hymns at funerals is ‘Abide with me… change and decay in all around I see’. Change means loosing something very precious that makes one feels safe and comfortable. None of us ever wants to feel loss. Change is in built, is inherent within our human bodies. Without change there can be no growth, no new beginnings and no new life. This is the true nature for every living being.
First reading: Isaiah 25: 6-9
People of the ancient world used banquets for both nourishment and as ways of saying something to each other. Practically, there were two types of banquets: ceremonial banquets which were occasions to celebrate the solidarity between the host and the invited guests. Ritual banquets which celebrated an important social change such as the transformation of a stranger into a guest cf. Genesis 19:3-14, or of an enemy into an ally as in Genesis 26:26-31. The banquet featured in today’s first reading appears to be both ceremonial and ritual. Ceremonial in that it celebrated the solidarity of humankind with God and ritual in that it marked the transformation of sadness to joy, defeat to victory and death to life. Isaiah’s vision of a wondrous, ecumenical, goodie picnic on the mountain is an excerpt from what has become known as his Apocalypse cf. Isaiah chapters 24-27. These prophecies alternate between predictions of desolation and visions of restoration; while in between there are prayers of petition and thanksgiving.
In these revelations prophet Isaiah wished to make his people aware that the exile in Babylon was ending. They needed thus to celebrate this as a victory won for them by God. The joy of that victory and the ensuing peace was a pointer to a renewed eschatological hope when humanity’s most formidable enemy, such as death, would also be vanquished. Emphasis on plenty of wine at the banquet was meant to counterpart the shortage caused by the destruction of vineyards in Jerusalem and the veil of anxiety that covered nations. The feast of the Eucharist is a realization of Isaiah’s vision and a prelude to the eternal victory banquet yet to come. God himself would wipe away every tear; death and mourning would be no more because the old order would have passed away and the Lord will destroy death forever cf. Revelation 19:9; 21:4.
Second reading: Romans 5:5-11
Having died to make us righteous, Jesus would now fail to save us from God’s anger. In today’s second reading, Paul speaks of the different ways in which God is manifested to humankind. Thinking in Trinitarian terms; this doctrine would not be articulated immediately; nevertheless, it hints at the multi-personal and relational character of God. We can as well derive from this text that the gifts of Christ, meaning peace, hope and love already present within the community are due to God’s action rather than human efforts. It is these gifts that equip believers to bear with and even boast of afflictions, for in human need the gifts of God are most clearly manifested.
By mingling the themes of affliction and disappointment with those of hope and endurance, Paul extends a brotherly helping hand to all those struggling to maintain balance in their lives. When difficulties arise, Paul seems to be saying, do not look solely inside yourselves for some reserve strength; rather look at Christ and be open to the movement of the Spirit, and you will find the resources you need to go forward. It is in Christ-event that God is fully revealed. It is in Christ that human beings find solution to sin, to sadness and to separation. On in Christ lies the strength that lets us accept, every day the grace in which we still stand and by which we are being saved. Paul also reminded the Romans that death and sin was not particular to or pursuant upon ethnicity; basing on this he reminded both Jews and Gentiles to acknowledge their common status as ‘powerless, godless, sinners and enemies of God’ cf. Romans 5:6-10. For this reason therefore, Jesus’ death on the Cross was to be received as the unmerited gift of a loving and undiscriminating God for the universal salvation of humankind. It was here that Paul presented the most striking interpretation of God’s love because “Christ dead for us while we were sinners” Romans 5:7.
Gospel: Luke 7:11-17
This is one of the three occasions on which Jesus restored a dead person to life, but the restoration of the widow’s son is unique to Luke’s gospel. All three synoptics have recorded the raising of Jairus’ daughter and only John has narrated the sign of Lazarus. Because the Nain story has been told by Luke alone, we should be aware of certain Lucan themes and emphases. For example, the fact that the story centers upon a woman who is widow reflects Luke’s penchant for showing Jesus’ concern for the disadvantaged of society. Also, the whole event has been cast in such a way as to recall the same deed as performed by the prophet Elijah. By presenting Jesus in the same light as the 9th Century BC prophet, who had become an eschatological figure connected with the advent of the messiah, Luke underscored the actions of Jesus as having eschatological and messianic significance. It is clear in this narrative that Luke did not wish to present Jesus only as an Elijah figure but to stress the difference and superiority of Jesus’ power by explaining that he healed with a word. There are none of the mysterious rituals such as stretching out, breathing and carrying to the upper floor in Jesus’ simple actions. Whereas Elijah performed his rite over the boy three times and prayed to God for success, Jesus had power of himself to effect what he willed. While Luke wished his audience to remember Elijah, he did not want them to misconstrue Jesus’ identity. While Elijah was anticipated as herald of the kingdom and of a renewed humanity, Jesus was himself that kingdom and the bringer of a new life to all of humankind. Nain which is modem day Nein was a town six miles southeast of Nazareth in the valley of Jezreel. Later Jewish tradition renamed it Naim which in Hebrew means ‘pleasant’. The funeral procession that Jesus halted was obviously accompanied by relatives and friends. Probably there were also the traditional professional mourners and dirge singers. Archaeologists in this century have unveiled rock graves just east of the city; it is quite possible this was the burial site used by the town in antiquity. Because Luke used a rare and technical medical term “the dead man sat up” Luke 7:15 to describe the man’s action also in Acts 9:40, this text is further proof of Luke’s medical background. “Fear” Luke 7:16 was the customary reaction to a manifestation of wondrous power. Followed immediately by the crowd’s praising God, the response to Jesus’ work indicated that his was seen as a divine ability.
It is significant that faith is not mentioned as a motive for Jesus’ action; indeed, from the story, it would appear that compassion had moved him to act. This act, plus the nature of the miracle, underscored Jesus’ work as a signal of the messianic era. Jewish tradition anticipated the age of the messiah as one in which all the suffering and the poor would be restored to a life of dignity. There was also a belief that, at the coming of the messiah, there would be a general resurrection of those Israelites who had “died before the eschaton” Isaiah 26:19. Since Luke wished his community to see in Jesus the realization of all messianic hopes he further presents Jesus as ‘the Lord’. Ho kyrios is the Greek translation for the divine name, Yahweh. Its application to Jesus in the context of a life-giving miracle is all the more appropriate. An examination of the context of this miracle with regard to the rest of the gospel would indicate that Luke had so placed it to prepare for the answer of Jesus to John the Baptist’s disciples when asked if he were the one to come, Jesus replied, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life and the poor have the good news preached to them” Luke 7:22. In answering the needs of the blind, the deaf and the dead, Jesus had answered as well the questions about his identity, power and saving purpose.
Our mortality is something we may care not to think about, but it is inevitable. When faced with the death of a loved one, we also need to contemplate our own and learn that only Christian faith encourages us to believe that there is far more than we can possibly imagine. From today we need keep in mind four core issues: death, judgment, heaven and hell. When these are in focus, then we have no reason not to shape up for the better. Today, we are encouraged to pray for the release of souls in Purgatory by interceding for them and where possible visit and pray at a cemetery for the faithful departed which gains us plenary indulgence.