Homily at St Philip Evans, for All Souls’ Day, 2013.
The point of this special day in the Church’s calendar is to remind us that people matter.
At the heart of the Bible is the message that God loves human beings, and asks us to share this same love for all humanity.
Today is not about – or at least, not mainly about – remembering our own loved ones. (We have a special day for that in this parish later in November.)
The clue is in the official name of today’s liturgy: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.
It’s a commemoration – so it’s about remembering.
It’s about all the Faithful Departed – so we are remembering every soul who has ever lived on earth and is now being purified on the way into God’s perfect kingdom.
Although we call them faithful departed, we are not making a claim about how religious they were in their earthly lifetime. Every soul which passes from this life into God’s hands will accept God’s love immediately, or slowly, or not-at-all. Yesterday we celebrated those who have already accepted that love fully, and become saints. Today we celebrate those souls who, on beholding God, have faith to believe they will enjoy that love as soon as all their brokenness is purified – and it has always been the understanding of the Catholic Church that the prayers of the living can assist in that purification.
People matter. Today is especially about those souls who have no-one to pray for them. As an act of love, the whole church sets apart this one day in the year to remember and offer Mass for them all.
Today might also be a reminder for us that there is some special act of love which we need to show to the living. Is there a word of reconciliation we know we need to say but have been putting off? Is there an act of kindness we could do but which has never made it to the top of our priority list? We have many ways to show love to the living; once a soul has passed into God’s hands, all we can do is pray.
In our bidding prayers in a moment, we will pray by name for those whose funerals were held at or through this church during the last 12 months. Among them will be those who worshipped regularly and those who never worshipped at all; Catholic funeral registers even contain the names of those who were not themselves Catholic but were given a church funeral by loved ones who share our faith.
Those we could never have helped practically in their earthly life, we assist spiritually today. This is a genuine and powerful act of love, and an expression of our faith in eternal life.
People matter. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.