The silence that pervades today’s commemoration of all the faithful departed is not the silence of the grave. It is rather the silence of the Lord’s Resurrection, evoking from the deepest recesses of our hearts respect and wonder. Today is not the feast of the dead, but of the living. It is not the victory of death that we celebrate, but the glorification of life in and through Jesus Christ.
The silence that engulfs our hearts today invites us all to reflect on three things.
First, death is not a curse. Death is not the punishment for our sins. When St. Paul wrote that the wage of sin is death, he meant death to be the total and eternal separation from God. Indeed, the consequence of sin is eternal death. However, the death of our bodies is neither a curse nor a penalty for our iniquities. Rather, our bodies, made from the dust of the earth, are truly destined to die and disintegrate; returning to what it is made of. Even if our first parents did not sin, our bodies will still die someday simply because our earthly bodies are not meant to be eternal. When the Lord comes at the end of time, He will give us glorified bodies like that of His own resurrected body. The death of our earthly bodies, therefore, is our birth unto eternal life and the beginning of our glorious existence.
Second, death is not powerful at all. Death does not break the bond that exists among us. We are related to one another even after the death of our earthly bodies. Our union with Christ and with one another is even more strengthened and highlighted by death. Yesterday’s solemnity and today’s commemoration very well express the communion that prevails in the church, a communion that persists beyond the grave and is fully enjoyed in heaven.
Moreover, death does not hinder us from helping one another. This is the reason why though already demised, our dearly departed can and continue to benefit from the prayers and sacrifices we offer on their behalf. For their turn, once in heaven, their prayers help and guide us too. Thus, we, the Church militant, pray for the souls in purgatory, the Church suffering, while the saints (whether canonized or not), the Church triumphant, pray for us. Death cannot destroy this communion and block this economy of spiritual benefit.
The Resurrection of Christ rendered death powerless so that St. Paul would say, “O death, where is thy sting?”
Third, because death is not a curse for the wicked or a punishment for the sinner, and, though death is not powerful, death is for all of us. We all die. They for whom we now pray and whose grave we visit today have gone ahead of us. We will surely follow them someday. For some of us, perhaps, soon while for others, perhaps, later. But whether soon or later, it is certain that we are always next in line. We do not know when, we do not know where, and we do not know how but we will surely die. We should therefore keep our selves prepared for death anytime, anywhere, and anyhow.
Do you hear a voice that speaks to you today in silence? That is not the voice of the dead. It is the voice of the Risen Lord assuring you, “If you remain in me, you will live forever.”
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.