“Commemoration of the faithful departed: (john 14: 1-6) Life as a Pilgrimage”, A Sunday Gospel Reflection By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

INTRODUCTION:Because of its proximity with the feast of All Saints, today’s feast of All Souls has not been given its due importance; specially because as early as Nov.1, people already troop to the cemeteries November first we celebrate the feast of All Saints; our communion with holy people and holy things; with the teaching of the apostles, fellowship in the Spirit and communion in the sacraments. Today, November two, we commemorate our faithful departed as one family of God. We remember and pray for all our loved ones who have gone ahead of us. Culturally we are attuned to communion with all our faithful departed as we cherish the memory of the dead with great piety, offering prayers for them.

GOSPEL:The gospel today belongs to the so-called farewell discourse of Jesus. Jesus knows the pain and anxiety that his departure will bring to his disciples. He knows the lacuna their separation will bring to them. It is as if the disciples’ world would cave in; their world is going to collapse. At such time there was only one thing to do…. to trust in God and trust in Jesus. There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove, and accept where we cannot understand; that life has a meaning, a purpose in the midst of the certitude of death. Jesus assures them that his death is not so much a departure; it is an arrival; not only a going away but a going back; not only an ending but a fulfillment. The image created by Jesus is life as a pilgrimage, a journey that has its origin in God and will also culminate in him.

WORD: If life is a pilgrimage, we are reminded of a very basic fundamental truth. All of life comes from God. Life proceeds from Him. This is a truth, which we have aggressively set aside or conveniently taken for granted. If life comes from God, it has its own laws and dynamics independent of what we wish or what we want. Life is God-governed and God-constituted. We were not consulted whether we like to be born and what other specifics we should have. (Tall, dark and never mind.) It is amazing to watch a child grow; the ordered unfolding of his physical and mental powers and attributes. How the hair grows, teeth appear, knees becoming strong that begins to walk. These are things which we not only don’t have to make it happen nor can we prevent it to happen. It is life’s God- giveness!

If life is a pilgrimage then, death is coming home to the Father. Jesus used the imagery of “my father’s house.” What awaits us through death is union with the father. Today we celebrate the sacred memory of the faithful departed. Yes, they have departed from us and in this world, but they have returned to the Father’s house. Our faith calls us not only to lament our loss but to celebrate their gain. Home is synonymous to peace, security and rest. The English word “ END” sums up aptly the double signification of the reality of death in our lives; first, it means, it’s over and done; it is finished. On the other hand, the end refers also to purpose. (What is the end of your life?) It means death not as ending but as fulfillment. This world says death is an ending, a decay, corruption. From the perspective of faith death is coming home.
If life is a pilgrimage, it is not a continuum of birth and death, but of beginning and ending, and in between, an ongoing journey and lastly a coming home. We are all pilgrims in this world on our way to the Father with Jesus as the Way.

As pilgrims in this world, we traverse A series of dying; times of letting go, renunciation of wealth and power and in the end even of space. We move from the wide arena of active involvement in the world and society to the limited space of occupation of home and garden, then of the room until finally restricted to the narrow confines of a bed. Each of these small steps of dying can help us break through the deeper meaning of life, which we have myopically seen in its material dimension of health and wealth. These little deaths strengthen the inner person in us. In each we can open spaces in our being to receive God and the new life that awaits us. Death therefore need not take us by surprise. The whole of life is filled with opportunities to rehearse the final passage. Letting go of youth, health, plans, friends when this is asked of us can all become a preparation for the last great renunciation we have to make.

Brothers and Sisters, take time to recall how God has held us through these little deaths of life and any fear should be allayed. We know that He will sustain us just as surely in the last moments of our demise.

About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections..