1 & 2 November 2007. Solemnity of All Saints/All Souls
Note: In the Philippines, people flock to cemeteries to remember the dead on November 1. So this can be a homily for both events.
In the Creed, we profess belief in the “Communion of Saints”. This belief is the basis for the Solemnity of All Saints which we celebrate today. The communion of saints means that we are in spiritual solidary with every faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory and the saints in heaven. These ‘groups’ of people all belong to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. And therefore each of these groups not just acknowledges Christ as the head, but they all have certain roles to play in salvation today.
Why do we call everyone here, “saints’? Saints are generally those whose destination and participation is Redemption. Thus, the damned are therefore excluded from the communion of saints. How about those who are not Catholics or Christians? We also believe that they participate in the communion of saints in the measure of their solidarity with Christ and with the ‘spirit’ of the Church. The angels, for example, belong to the communion of saints because they are under Christ and also receives his grace. Peacemakers and Environmentalists participates in the communion of saints because they are in union with the Creator and the Lord of Peace.
What are exchanged between those in Purgatory and Heaven and ourselves? We exchange prayers, intercessions and veneration (relative honor to the supreme worship and adoration of Christ): we pray for them when we offer masses for the repose of their souls, and in turn, they pray for us. Within the Church, we share the same faith, sacraments, government, examples and prayers. If we broaden the meaning of the communion of saints and the accompanying holiness of such exchange, we can say that all the goodness and holiness that we do belongs to everyone and is beneficial to all of humanity. This is the basis of charity: when we do good to others, we show who we are as children of God. When we function as God’s children, we contribute to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in heaven and on earth (from the Our Father).
When we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints — or All Souls the following day — we should be reminded that we are to contribute to the list of good things people have been doing since the beginning of time. There is an expression Filipinos have: we are brought together by death. When someone dies in the family, all members of the family — wherever they are, abroad or in town — make it a point to come home. Death becomes an occasion of sharing the family’s pain, but also a sharing of gratitude to the person who passed away. Often there is an exchange of good memories. The exchange of these remembrances contribute to the memoria, the Family Memory. Just as Scripture contains the memories of people about God’s intervention in their lives, we too contribute to these stories by putting in our own.
And so, as we light candles and put flowers on the grave of our loved ones, we remember the good things they have contributed to our growth as persons: their love and their ways of expressing their love, their humor, and the lessons they imparted. And perhaps as we reminisce, we can ask ourselves how we can improve on them, modify them or even do better than what they have done. Or, try these three questions from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?”