I couldn’t help thinking that the man was an evangelist in mourning for his wife. His faith is Jesus Christ not only sustained him during that difficult time but it also led him to get across the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people whom he met around that time. Some people thought he went mad after the death of the woman he loved so much, however there were people who were deeply touched by his witness.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! This first Sunday of November brings us together to pray for those who have died over the last year. As Christians we believe that our deceased are well and truly alive. They have not evaporated into nothingness. We hold onto what St Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans: ‘When we were baptized we went into the tomb with Jesus and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.’
During an interview in 2010 Lemmy, an English musician and songwriter, said: ‘In your twenties, you think you are immortal. In your thirties, you hope you are immortal. In your forties, you just pray it doesn’t hurt too much, and by the time you reach my age, you become convinced that, well, it could be just around the corner. Do I think about death a lot? It is difficult not to when you’re 65, son.’ Although Lemmy was an agnostic in his honest reflection on life and death he shared the insight of St Paul from the First Letter to the Corinthians: ‘Our time is growing short’ and few sentences later ‘the world as we know it is passing away.’ However the difference was in the way they addressed it. Lemmy escaped into drugs and alcohol. St Paul found his strength in Jesus Christ. Today’s readings, both from the Book of Deuteronomy and the Gospel of Mark, confront us with the most important commandment: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Did you notice that the scribe from the Gospel asked Jesus for the first off all commandments? Jesus however gave him the first and the second, loving God and loving the neighbor. Why did our Blessed Lord do that? Because our love of the neighbor flows from our love of God but our love of God is real when we love our neighbor. Separating the first commandment from the second or the second from the first makes our religion and life dysfunctional.
This Sunday as we remember those people in our life who have died our presence and prayers for them are a sign of our love for them. We are here not only to share our memories of them but to pray for them because as followers of Christ we believe that with death ‘life is changed not ended.’ Gabriel Marcel, a French thinker and writer, who was a son of an agnostic and who was an agnostic himself until his conversion to the Catholic Church at the age of forty wrote: ‘To tell someone, with fullness of heart: ‘I love you,’ is virtually the same as saying: ‘You shall never die.’
The God who created the whole Universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who led the people of Israel out of Egypt, the God who spoke through the prophets, the God whose only Begotten Son Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, who was crucified, died, was buried and was raised to life, this God has invited first his Chosen People Israel and then the Church founded by Jesus Christ and thus all people to love him ‘with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ In this loving relationship we hear God say to us: ‘I love you. You shall not die. Your death will be your Resurrection. Look at my Son Jesus Christ. He is the Firstborn among the many brothers and sisters. He is the first of the many who will follow him in his death and Resurrection.’
Today we pray for the dead because we realize that our loved ones were not perfect as we are not perfect. If being in the presence of ‘the Holy, Holly, Holy Lord,’ they still acknowledge the traces of their sins stopping them from being united in the eternal happiness with God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our loving and faith filled prayers offered in the name of Jesus can contribute to their desire to be with God forever and ever. Amen.