[pullquote_right width=”30%”]and may the souls of the faithful departed
rest in peace.[/pullquote_right]How many times have you heard that? It was the last line of the “grace” before meals at my grandmother’s house. (I think it was an Irish custom. After the usual “Bless us, O Lord” ended, the leader would say, “May God provide for the wants of the poor”; and all replied, “And may the souls of the faithful departed, etc.” It’s a fine custom.
And that’s what we celebrate Friday, on All Saints’ Day, and hope for on Saturday on All Souls’. The church assures us that the saints rest in peace in the presence of the Risen Lord. And it offers that hope about everyone, since God’s forgiveness is without limit.
But there’s more.
Our ultimate hope isn’t to “rest in peace,” wonderful as that assurance and hope is. For God isn’t finished with creation yet, and those who have died also await something better. God’s promise in Christ is not only that we “rest in peace” while our bodies decay to dust. God’s promise is that, when all creation is renewed, we will “rise in glory,” newly embodied, to enjoy the new creation and one another and God together.
Why does this matter? First, of course, because it affects the ultimate destiny of ourselves and those we love. We don’t hope only that our loved ones “rest in peace” as disembodied and forever apart from what they have loved in this life. We hope to be reunited with them in a world that will be recognizably the same, but also wonderfully renewed.
Also, a confused hope for the life of the resurrection has contemporary consequences. If the world we live in is ultimately headed for the junk-heap, how we care for it today is only a matter of our temporary convenience. But if it’s the raw material God is going to build His new creation on, we’d better do our best to preserve and enhance it. Thus faith in the resurrection is closely linked to good stewardship – we hold creation in trust, and have been appointed (to use the Genesis metaphor) gardeners: to make things blossom and fulfill their potential to be useful and beautiful.
One more thing: “heaven.” We often say “Uncle Joe’s in heaven,” or “I hope to go to heaven when I die.” If by “heaven” we mean, “with God,” that’s certainly correct. But if we mean, “someplace other than this earth,” we’ve gotten it wrong. It’s sin, and sin alone, that separates “heaven” from “earth.” We pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God will re-unite the two, that heaven will be joined to earth. Our true hope and destiny is to live forever in God, once God completes creation and reunites heaven and earth.
So this All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, come to Mass; pray with all the saints and for all the departed:
May they – and we – rest in peace, and rise in glory!
Until next week, Amen
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