All Souls Day

Today we are praying for and celebrating some important family business that every one of us are called to pitch in and help resolve. As Christians we’re part of an extended family beyond this world. When we become a part of the Church, we become part of a big family. Christ makes all Christians our brothers and sisters. Yesterday, on the feast of All Saints, we celebrated the members of our extended Christian family who are now in Heaven: they are with God forever and praying for us so that we can join them some day. We are part of what’s called the pilgrim Church on earth: our life in this world is a pilgrimage, a journey that will one day lead us to our true home: Heaven, with God and the saints.

However, there are also members of our extended family who have died and are almost in Heaven, but need some help to get there more quickly. When the chores aren’t done around the house, forgiveness is one thing, but if we were supposed to take out the garbage, the garbage still has to be taken out by someone. Maybe just a little of that trash was caused by us, but taking out the trash helps the whole family take care of business. We do it for the good of the whole family. So when we don’t, the whole family suffers. God has a plan for each one of us, and He has big expectations: He expects all of us to be and become saints. We do that by helping Him take care of family business: by loving Him and loving our neighbor, by praying, fasting, and helping the poor. In short, we help him by doing whatever “chores” He gives us out of love.

In the readings today, God promises us that if we have faith in him and live as he asks us to, we will be saints and take care of family business. Today’s First Reading speaks of the just souls: those who suffered for the sake of God and for doing good. They’re in the palm of God’s hand, where nobody and nothing can get to them. Every soul who dies in friendship with God is guaranteed to get to Heaven. Today’s Second Reading reminds us that all things on earth, past and present, that we were expected to do and didn’t, are taken care of by Jesus coming to earth and suffering and dying for us on the Cross, even when we didn’t want or ask him to do it. He makes up for what we didn’t do, and he sends us the Holy Spirit to help us stay in friendship with Him and keep doing what God expects us to do. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us that anyone who comes to him and believes in him will have eternal life, because God the Father wants it too and promises it.

But God expects more from us than just doing what it takes to get ourselves in Heaven, because that is easy if we do whatever he tells us. God expects us to help take care of family business. He could do it all by himself, but then we wouldn’t have a chance to love, because love is about doing things freely, not just because we’re getting something out of it. And it is love that makes us truly happy. If you were to say to your Mom, “I love you, so I’m taking out the trash … that’ll be five dollars.” What kind of love is that!? That’s looking for a job, not love. That’s loving five dollars, not loving Mom. We each have a part to play in taking care of family business. Whatever we do for love of God benefits us, but it also benefits others, because God blesses us, and blesses certain people that He has entrusted to our prayers. So we don’t pray just for ourselves, we also pray for others, living and dead.

Today we remember that we need to take care of unfinished family business, even if it wasn’t business we were supposed to take care of in the first place. If you were forgiven for not taking out the garbage, somebody still needs to take out the garbage, and, if it took a long time, somebody needs to clean up and do something about the smell, the ants, the mess it left, etc. Today we pray for all those members of our extended family who received forgiveness, but didn’t have a chance to take out the garbage and clean up the mess before their lives ended: who didn’t do all the reparation they should have during their earthly life. They’re on the way to Heaven, but can’t get there quite yet because of unfinished business on earth. God expected something of them, they received forgiveness for being sorry and not doing it, but they left something undone.

We pray today for the souls in Purgatory to help them get to Heaven. We can help them take care of their unfinished business, because they’re family, and their business is our business. When we pray, when we sacrifice, when we help the poor, God helps us become holier, we do what he expects us to do, and, if we offer up our prayers and sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory, God blesses them and helps them go to him sooner, because we take care of that unfinished business they left on earth. We help them take out the garbage and clean up the mess. When we pray and sacrifice for the souls in Purgatory, they know and can see us, and imagine how happy they are when they know we’re helping them. When they reach Heaven, they’ll help us take care of family business as well by their prayers and intercession for us.

There’s so much unfinished business that we have to make an extra effort to do what God expects us to do, and to have something left over to help take care of unfinished family business. Let’s ask Our Lord in his mercy to look upon all the good we’ve done, and to help our extended family in Purgatory to reach him quickly in Heaven. Let’s take extra time this week in prayer, or in giving something up, or in helping someone poor, and offer it so that even one soul gets to Heaven more quickly.

Readings: Wisdom 3:1–9; Psalm 23:1–6; Romans 5:5–11; John 6:37–40. These are the readings for this reflection, but the Lectionary has many options for this day.