2 MAC 12:42-35 ; Matthew 11:25-30

All Souls

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  This deeply moving prayer of a man dying on a cross received an immediate, positive response from the Lord as he himself was about to die under torture.  "This day you will be with me in Paradise."  This promise, made under such solemn, affecting circumstances, gave immense hope to the man whom tradition called Saint Dismas.  If Saint Luke records it, it is intended also to be a source of hope and trust for all of us Jesus had just heard this man confess his guilt of violent rebellion and accept his death as due punishment.  He knew that the words addressed to him expressed a profoundly sincere turning away from the wrongful past, enabled by the grace that emanated from his divine person.  The change effected in the heart of this angry rebel was brought about by his responding to the humble, loving acceptance of his suffering that conveyed to his fellow sufferer something of the transcendent power of goodness that he embodied.  He had come to the conviction that this crucified victim was more than an innocent man: he possessed a nobility more than human.  And so this unfortunate condemned prisoner, by opening his heart and soul to the light of goodness and truth he perceived in the crucified man mocked by the learned leaders of the people, the King of a transcendent realm.

The unexpressed lesson of this gospel text is that our Savior is mercifully ready to forgive with a generosity of heart when we turn to him, no matter how sinful we have been, with trusting faith in his divine person.  After hearing the witness of the Jews who adhered to the faith of the Maccabees, we are confirmed in our conviction that the mercy of Jesus extends even beyond the dying who turn to him in the last hours of life.  He responds with that same willingness to forgive and confer spiritual life as well to those who, like Judas Maccabee believed, are convinced that God rewards "those who have gone to rest in godliness."  By our prayer and good acts we too can make "atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin."  Such is the purpose and meaning of this Eucharist that is such a prominent part of this day when we ask the Lord to extend to our deceased friends, relatives and brothers the same loving mercy that Jesus poured out on Saint Dismas from the cross.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger