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All Souls

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 2, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

Of the three Theological Virtues—faith, hope, and love— we focus most of our attention on faith and love and neglect the vitally important virtue of Hope. The celebration of All Souls Day brings back into focus the centrality of hope in our lives of faith, a hope which leads us to love more joyously and generously.

Christian hope is not an abstract wish, and it is not a worldly optimism that somehow things will get better in the future. The hope we share in Christ is concrete and real. It confronts the wrenching reality of death and does not run away from sorrow.

It is a life-giving hope which the Good Shepherd protects and nourishes in us as he leads us through the dark valley of the death of our loved ones, and through the dark valley of our own death.

Every time we make a Profession of Faith at Mass, we express this hope to receive the gift of life beyond this life. “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

This is a hope which no one can snatch away from us, an anchor in the stormy seas of this life, a hope which does not disappoint.

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks powerfully of this hope which does not disappoint. Why is this so? Paul is crystal clear: “because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” So the virtue of hope, so important for us in today’s world, flows from the love of God given to us—it is a divine gift.

God’s love which sustains and strengthens our hope is given to us in abundance, for it has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Spirit first given at baptism. Not a drop here and then a drop there, but this water of new life, this love which energizes hope, has been poured into our hearts.

Christian hope roots itself in a person—in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Son of God is sent by the Father into the world, not when people in our world have turned away from sin and are worthy to receive such a great gift, but He comes before anyone is worthy to receive such a great gift.

There is more good news to enrich hope, because as St. Paul states so clearly, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The love which sustains our hope is undeserved, unearned, complete gift. The One who is Love enfleshed gives himself to us before we are ever worthy of him, to reconcile us to the Father and to one another, to be the source of our hope forever.

The one day in history which tilted our lives and the world forever toward hope and away from despair was that first Easter Sunday when Christ Jesus rose from the dead. From the place where hope dies—the tomb—life blooms again. So now even the place of death becomes a place where hope lives.

The will of our Heavenly Father who sent His Son into the world as the living symbol of hope is that the Son should not lose anything of what the Father gave him. In Jesus, nothing and no one is lost to us. Everything and everyone can be found in Him who is the source of all hope.

We often use the word “loss” when we speak of death. We tell others we are sorry for your loss, and we pray for those who have suffered through the loss of a loved one. When we encounter the reality of death in the searing sorrow over the death of a loved one, we can feel like we have lost them, that they are lost to us. We also feel lost, for everything in life is different without them. We feel disoriented in our daily routine which used to include our beloved dead. Nothing seems to be same—even food tastes different salted with sorrow. Little things happen throughout the day which remind us of them, and we feel even more deeply the loss of their physical presence.

It is right there, in the midst of great grief, in the middle of searing sorrow, that the Lord of all hopefulness finds us. To remind us that nothing and no one is lost to him, that he came to seek out and find those who are lost. That because everything, that’s right every thing, has been created through Him and for Him, that even our beloved animal companions, our favorite blooming plants and golden leafed trees, are not lost—they are found in Him. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians says of Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and earth was created, things visible and invisible. All were created through him, all were created for him.” (1:15-16)

Our beloved dead linger with us, and continue to bless us, even when their physical absence bewilders us and breaks our hearts still. For in Jesus, all of them are still alive. In Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, they still live, just in a different way. Life for them, and for us, has changed, not ended.

Today’s Gospel passage from the evangelist John assuring us that nothing is lost in Jesus is taken from the middle of Chapter 6 in what has been called the Bread of Life discourse. It is the chapter in John’s Gospel where he lays out a powerful teaching on the Eucharist, as Jesus teaches that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have life in Him.

Thus, every time we come to the table of the Lord, we are found by the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and joined to Him who is the Source of our Hope. We also find those we thought we had lost here with Him, for he brings them with Him.

So we are joined to them, our beloved dead, at this sacred meal, and they to us, in the One who is the reason for our hope, in this banquet pointing us to the heavenly feast.