Oct 23, 2017
Next Sunday and during that week I will be at St. Mary’s Church in Bloomington, IL for their parish mission. I was asked to present a series of talks for the parishioners on the occasion of their 150th anniversary as a parish, 1867-2017. As I recall, St. Mary’s has a large parish cemetery where many of their deceased members are buried. A cemetery is a fitting tribute to those men and women and children who have gone before us having lived their lives as witnesses to Christ and to His Gospel message.
During this upcoming week we commemorate All Souls Day, a memorial of special prayer for the Faithful Departed. With prayer for those who have gone before us, there is usually an accompaniment of story-telling. When families or groups of families come together to celebrate they are often moved to remember and converse about the past in order to get in touch with their common history and memories. They recall both sad and humorous events together, thus reminding them of their common heritage. Of course, the events remembered deal mainly with PERSONS, not just with happenings. We still like to recall and tell stories of our parents, grandparents, and other family members whose lives brought wisdom, wit, and warmth into our lives. As we pray “May they rest in peace,” we rejoice in the many gifts they have handed on to us, gifts that today we are handing on to others who will be living long after us.
What are the gifts of our deceased parishioners that we have received? To put it briefly, the answer is their life-stories. Each of these stories is unique and special, replete with joys and sufferings; each story is a living testimony to the presence and power of God alive in their work and in their witness. The life-stories of our departed family members and friends are a part of God’s saving work and enduring word among His people. God communicates with us through one another. Our fore-bearers listened to God and acted on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Their good deeds and their spoken wisdom revealed the ongoing care of God for us, His people. The life-stories of women and men of the past reflect God’s ongoing presence and saving power as He continues to be in touch with us on our life journey. These stories give us hope; they widen our vision, deepen our faith, and call forth from us a renewed commitment to live and work for the enlivening and enrichment of the world in which we now live. When Jesus proclaimed that the “reign of God is at hand,” He was affirming our belief that the God who made us will always walk with us to lead and guide us to our eternal destiny. We see the reign of God in the life of Jesus. We continue to see this presence in the goodness, beauty, and truth witnessed in the HISTORY (“his-story” and “her-story”) of our Faithful Departed.