Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 27; Romans 5:5-11; Mark 15:33-39,16:1-6
We often hear about living life to the full, of athletic brands using slogans like “Life is short, play hard” and these become even more stark when loved ones leave us before their time. It’s very tempting to follow such slogans to think that since life is so short, uncertain and sometimes unpleasant, why not ignore conventions and just do what I (or me or myself) like to do? It’s very tempting. However, if we consider how things might be like if everyone did so, would we still be where we are now? Would the martyrs have done what they did? How about our loving parents and grandparents who selflessly brought us up? This leads us to think also – why would anyone want to be selfless given the kind of short, uncertain lives we have?
St Paul replies us with a four-letter word: Hope. He reminds us that hope is not deceptive and is very real. We’re reconciled with the Lord and each other and are saved. There’s a sense of joy in this hope that we’re given. Contrasting this with the idea that we should play hard because life is short, we realise that the latter is somewhat deceptive. Wanting only to maximise our lives where we are points to the fact that there is nothing to hope for except for what we can create for ourselves. But that’s not true for us as Christians – we don’t live in a vacuum and our communities, families and traditions all come together to make us who we are and give us hope and a way to live.
The gospel of today ends with the resurrection of the Lord. It’s significant in that it tells us very clearly that death is NOT the end but the beginning of eternal life. It’s a transition and the Lord doing this first by defeating death shows that the hope that St Paul describes is indeed real. The Lord promises through the Prophet Isaiah that we will have joy in his presence and that our tears will be wiped away. These are all reminders that there is something beyond our short uncertain lives and that hope is ever present.
“I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” The psalm tells us that the hope is not just theological but something that we can feel right here and now. Part of this comes from those whom we have met, lived, laughed and cried with. We take the time today (and most of this month) to remember those who have gone before us and who have showed us the Lord’s goodness in their time with us. Knowingly or not, many actions of those who have gone before were born out of the hope, love and faith that they have and it is these actions that we remember and honour.
Remembering our faithful departed ties us to those who have gone before. It reminds us that we’re not here through our own merits but by the grace of God, with the help of those who have shown us the Lord’s goodness. During this time when we honour our dear faithful departed, we often light candles for them. I love this as a symbol of what they represent. The candle, though small, has the power to fill even the darkest spot with a little bit of light. The act of lighting a candle is the act of remembrance of the light that our departed loved ones have shone in our lives. Lighting such candles also encourage us to do the same, to help to illumine the lives of others and to show the light of Christ in all that we do. As hard as life might be, we’re encouraged to bring this light to others and not live life selfishly, just for ourselves. And we give thanks for all those who have gone before us, remembered or not, praying for them and praying that we can shine as we should.
A Prayer for All Souls
Candles lit, this special night,
to pray for all the holy souls,
who in their lives showed us the light
of God on earth that we behold.
We live in hope, that we may be
like those who walked the path of love
and showed the world, that they may see
God’s grace and hope in things above.