JUNE 27, 2005- MASS FOR THE DECEASED- 1THES4:13-18; LK 12: 35-40

BE LIKE PEOPLE WAITING FOR THEIR MASTER TO RETURN FROM THE WEDDING FEAST. Today as we commemorate the deceased members o our Order and those relatives and friends to whom we owe so much of the good things we profit from in life, the readings at this liturgy speak to us about our own death. The words of our Lord are intended to assure that we are prepared to greet him gladly when he comes. He points out that we cannot be sure just when death will overtake us, but it will very likely come as a surprise when it does. The only way to surely be prepared when we meet death, he teaches, is to live a watchful life so that we are always ready to give an account to the Lord of life.

Death has as many different meanings for individuals as there are different meaning to life. Some people live as if this present life is all they have; death is simply the end of everything for them. It is dissolution, finality. There is nothing particularly modern in this attitude. It is already recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures and the conclusion arrived at is correspondingly cynical in the ears of a Christian. Ecclesiastes has this to say: "The living are at least aware that they are going to die, but the dead know nothing whatever ... so eat your bread in joy, drink your wine with a glad heart ... throughout your futile days (9:7,9)." There are many men in our own times who have come to this same conclusion influenced by a false reading of science, an erroneous philosophy or a biased reading of history among other causes. They give pretty much the same advice as Ecclesiastes: make the best of it while times are good.! This is hardly a satisfactory solution for the thousands of persons in our hospitals and nursing homes, not to mention the millions who live in grinding poverty. Only in the latest period of the Hebrew Scriptures did there appear a definite belief in life after death and a resurrection, and even then there was only the vaguest notion of its nature.

Jesusí resurrection changed the situation dramatically. So dramatic and unexpected was the new revelation he brought about that his closest followers, among them very devout Jews, could not believe that even he, the sinless one, the Anointed of God, actually rose from the dead. Some, we are told, of those to whom he appeared in Galilee continued to doubt in spite of his appearance and his dealings with them. But others, including those closest to him, did believe after they ate and drank with him. They came to understand that in his resurrection the whole meaning of life changed; so did the meaning of death. Life, the risen Christ taught, lived in faith in his resurrection is not subject to death; death becomes, not an end but a new beginning, a transformation. Those who live and die in Christ never die the death that puts an end to love and to relationships that constitute a meaningful life. We have our Lordís word for this central truth of our faith, the truth on which all the rest depends. "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (Jn 11:35, 36)"

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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