Gospel Reflections

Feast of All Souls

John 6:37-40

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Barbara Metz

Published: November 02, 2017


A Tony DeMello story…
The village preacher was visiting the home of an elderly parishioner and, over a cup of coffee, he was answering some of the questions grandma was putting to him.

“Why does the Lord send us epidemics every so often?” asked the old lady.

“Well,” said the preacher, “sometimes people become so wicked they have to be removed and so the good Lord permits the coming of epidemics.”

“But,” objected grandma, “then why do so many good people get removed with the bad ones?”

“The good ones are summoned for witnesses,” explained the preacher.  “The Lord wants to give every soul a fair trial.”
The judgement is presided over by God. The jury is our fellow human beings. Perhaps within this interesting image is a deep call to new ways of looking at our lives and at the lives of others.

Let me share a true story that might help engage us in our reflection more concretely.
Two brothers lived in the same town.  One, the village saint went to daily Mass, prayed, lived alone and was generally thought of as being very good.  He had nothing to do with his drunken brother.  He was ashamed of him.

The second brother was the town drunk.  He spent his days in bar rooms.  He was known to be involved in drunken brawls and was often seen staggering home.

The two brothers died within weeks of each other.

The only mourner in the little church on the day of the funeral of the saintly brother was his drunken brother.  When the villagers were asked about him, there was not a single good work that could be recounted, not a kindness remembered.
The drunken brother died a few weeks later as a result of his excessive drinking.  The church was filled.  Story after story was exchanged of the man’s opening his pockets to his neighbors, of his doing just and good deeds.

The end of life was for each of these men, as it is for all of us, a distillation of the deepest values that are at the center of our personalities and by which we live.

Death is not a finite event in which we give up our bodies.  It is a slow process of maturation and fruition that culminates into the presentation of our personalities to our good God as a finished work.  This is as it was for Jesus.  At his death he said, “It is consummated.  Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

The building blocks, the bricks and mortar of our personalities are our deed, our thoughts and the attitudes formed as we go about our daily business.

Today we remember those who have already presented their personalities before God.  So many of these people have touched the clay of our lives and their fingerprints still linger on us for good or ill.  All of us can think can think of some who have lovingly held and touched us and of others whose memory is difficult for us to embrace. We remember, however, the role of the jury.  We have a role in the judging of another.  All the evidence must be brought to bear upon the life and actions of the person judged.  It is a life that is being judged, not a single act or series of acts.  A person is innocent until proven guilty.

As we look at scripture we see attitudes that are required of the jury.  They are in passages like Dives and Lazarus, the Good Thief, the Pharisee and the Publican and the Parable of the Talents.

We can have a tendency to judge one another superficially, to be unaware of the struggles, the brokenness, the longings and the pain of those we have known. As we celebrate today’s feast, we remember and we pray.  We remember frailty and splendor.  We pray to be healed and freed of painful memories, and to be gifted with deeper understanding.  We pray to know that we are on a journey with a crowd of great witnesses who teach us of God’s power in the struggle of life.  We pray to look with eyes of compassion and love upon the lives of all who have gone before us.

We pray to celebrate the lives of all who have made us what we are today. We remember their love and the lessons they taught us. We will cherish all that is good and true and has been gift from the most struggling of our family or friends.

 

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