What do you fear most?
We celebrate this weekend the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, also known as All Souls, a memorial that can’t help but put us in mind of end times – our own, as well as those of the world – and we tend to fear death... Yet the message that Jesus came to bring is that death cannot conquer love: everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, he says in our gospel reading from John. If we believe in that love, it can change the way we see, for we see not with the eyes but with the heart, opening the eyes of our hearts to the a truth that we can only find in Christ’s death and resurrection. Choosing love is choosing a life of grace – and it is a choice we have to choose willingly.
Our first reading, from Wisdom, offers a message of hope: The souls of the just are in the hand of God; in other words, immortality is the reward of the righteous, those in right relationship with God. Moreover, they are in peace – for God has removed the fear of death that previously undermined the relationship between God and God’s people. Instead, those who die will abide with him in love and understand truth; they will know God’s care. Hence there is no reason to be afraid. Fear of death can only lock in our fear of loss of love and life, making us grasp for what is not eternal, for what will ground us in the moment. Faith, on the other hand, gives us the opportunity to step away from this limited viewpoint, so that fear no longer rules our lives. Thus, we can trust in God’s grace and mercy, because we know that, even as we walk in the valley of darkness, we need fear no evil, for God is with us (Psalm 23).
And while we remain in this world, Paul tells the Romans, our hope is to die with Christ (we are baptized into his death), dying to the slavery that is sin such that sin no longer drives our desire – God’s love does. When our desire is focused on the love of God, our consummate need for control falls away, and all we need is that love. It is ours if we are open to it, and respond – and in so doing, know that fear no longer stands between us and the perfect union God has in store for us, united with Jesus in the resurrection.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture's class.