Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Commemoration Of All The Faithful Departed
Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
November 2nd, 2014
Year A

Each year, All Souls Day, affords us the opportunity to reflect upon what we call the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. These are the two inevitable and the two possible realities that we face at the end of our earthly lives. Reflecting on death and praying for the dead reminds me of a joke:
A man was teaching catechism and he asked his students: “what must I do to get into heaven? If I clean the church once a week, will that do it?” The class answered, “no.” He asked, “well, if I clean the church and mow the rectory lawn, will that do it?” Again, “no.” He asked again, “ok, if I clean the church, mow the lawn and say the rosary everyday, will that get me into heaven?” Once again, “no.” Perplexed, he asked, “if I clean the church, mow the lawn, pray the rosary, and go to Mass every Sunday, will that get me into heaven?” Again, “no.” Frustrated, he gave up and asked, “you tell me then, what must I do to get into heaven?” One student, way in the back raised his hand and said, “well, you’ve got to be dead first.”

Death: Death is the cessation of our present earthly lives. It is the moment when the soul leaves the body. Once we are dead, we cease to be able to choose between good and evil, right and wrong. Death fixes our state for all eternity. Although death came to us as a result of sin, not because of God’s will, He has removed its terror and made for us a path to eternal life.

Judgment: Yet before we could possibly enter into eternal life, we must pass through judgment. God is the just and only judge. He judges us according to our deeds – how we lived our lives on earth and if we remained close to Him in life. We ought to remain in His friendship and live each day as our last so that this judgment may go well for us and that we will die a happy and peaceful death. Since we are judged by God, we ought to ask for His mercy and for help in putting our lives in order – a good practice is a regular examination of conscience and a habit of going to confession when needed. Furthermore, we believe in a merciful God. Thus, judgment does not exclude the possibility of eternal life for those who died not knowing Christ, or without sacraments, or having lived outside the church for most of their lives. (This is my own reflection on God’s mercy but it seems to me that He would give one last chance to those who did not know Him to make the decision for Him).

Heaven: That decision, one would hope, would be for heaven – our eternal home where God gives us the blessed vision of His face and shares with us His divine life. The Beatific Vision, as St. Thomas Aquinas called it. Sacred Scripture describes heaven as a city or a kingdom where the saints enjoy the perfected creation and the reward they deserve for living for God in their earthly lives. Our hope is to be with them and we can truly hope and long for heaven since it is God’s desire for us. We ought to, therefore, ask Him for the necessary graces we will need to prepare for heaven while on earth even in the midst of suffering and pain.

Pain and suffering can be viewed in this sense as a purification of the soul. Some souls, who are still in need of purification, enter purgatory. Purgatory is just that, a state of being purified. They are not doomed to hell but through the merit of our prayers, will one day enter heaven and the vision of God.

Hell: C.S. Lewis, in his novel The Great Divorce, wrote that: in the end there are two kinds of people, those who say to God: “Thy will be done.” And those to whom God says: “Thy will be done.” Hell exists because of man’s choosing it. It is the eternal loss or separation from God. The place of punishment for condemned souls, the devil and his minions. Hell is a choice of evil and a lack of repentance before the end of our earthly lives. It is like the bad part of town that we ought to avoid at all costs. Yet even though hell exists, evil exists, God does not leave us hanging. Each day, through the sacraments – particularly that of confession and Holy Communion – God reaches out to us with a remedy for sin, a way to conquer evil and as a means to salvation through His blood. Each day, therefore, we should ask God to save us from the fires of hell as He Himself desires. And we should help others, warning them of the danger their souls face when they do not repent and turn to God in prayer and in the sacraments.

Today we pray for the dead. We pray for those who not only died in the faith but also those whom we know that did not really know God in their earthly lifetime. We pray for them that God, in His great and abundant mercy, look kindly upon them, show them compassion, and welcome them into His kingdom. On this day too, we pray for ourselves, that we, when the course of our earthly life is finished, may be joined to those who died in faith praising God with all saints and angels in the glory of Heaven. 


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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