Historically, the custom of setting apart a special day for the intercession of the departed faithful on November 2, was first established by St. Odilo of Cluny in the late 10th century. From this monastery in France, the custom spread throughout Europe and was ultimately accepted by Rome in the fourteenth century. Eventually, this tradition came to be known in the liturgy of the Roman Rite as “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”, and is the reason why we have gathered here this evening; to pray for, and to come together as one, as the Body of Christ, with each other and those who have gone before.
The significance, relevance, and beauty of the reason why we are gathered here this day, for me, personally, became tangible on the day of my grandfather’s funeral.
On that day, sitting alone in the funeral home, with my grandfather’s body lying in the casket before me, I experienced the grace and beauty of the perpetual communion we share as believers in Christ. A communion described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as, “All… who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.”
Today, this most unique and significant day, we are reminded of the promises of Christ; “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life,” and, as, “(we) remain in (him), … (he) remain(s) in (us),” and, as the Church so beautifully reminds us in her doctrine, that “Christ mystically constitutes as his body those (persons) of his who are called together from every nation.” In these promises we find the assurance and the hope that, “Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him…and with one another.” CCC 790
This unity, with Christ, and with one another, and with those who have passed on before, form the Mystical Body of Christ, which we as Catholics, celebrate in our Sacrament and most specifically in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. This unity, which bind us together in one body with Christ as its head, allows us to find comfort, peace, and most importantly, hope. Hope that one day we shall ALL be gathered together in perfect harmony and joy. This unity, which allows us to triumph over all human division, produces and stimulates a perfect charity allowing us all to “suffer when one member suffers” and rejoice when “one member is honored.” This unity, which we publicly recognize today, in “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”, enables our tears and sorrows associated with loss to be tempered by the joy and hope of our promised resurrection.
Today, we share our lists. Our own personal list of names. The names of our grandfathers, our grandmothers, our parents, and, sometimes, most regrettably, our children. These names, the names of our family members, our friends, neighbors, and, sometimes, of people who we did not even know, are for us, precious mementos of those whom we cherished, and loved, and whose passing caused a inexpressible emptiness and void.
These names that make up our lists represent the best and worst parts of us. They have become for us who yet live, our own personal ritual as we speak them in prayer and recall their faces in our thoughts and in our dreams. These names, of those who have preceded us in our journey, and the hope in the promises of Jesus Christ which they represent, are for us both the cause of our anguish and the inspiration for our hope.
So, today, share your list. Share you list with one another knowing and trusting that we are united, together in both sorrow and hope, as one in the Body of Christ. Share your list in prayer, and together we will work, one with another, in lifting your sorrowful burden to the healer of all our wounds, Jesus Christ. Share your list here in front of this altar as we celebrate the unity provided to us through the Body and Blood our Lord. Share your list knowing in the confidence of the resurrection, that one day we shall ALL be gathered to him, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.