November 1, 2016

All Souls' Day 2016 | A Reflection on the Last Things

Christ harrowing hell

If you were to collect all the passages about death and the afterlife in Sacred Scripture, you would still not have a clear picture about what the experience of death is like, or what we can expect after we have died. Obviously, God has no intention of revealing very much about these two basic experiences, even though humans have contemplated and written much about them. Death is an unknown abyss between ourselves and the afterlife, as far as our knowledge is concerned.

We are, however, asked to meditate deeply on what precedes and what follows the experience of death. With regard to what precedes death, we are encouraged to reflect on God's mercy and goodness, not on our failures, torments, and trials of the past. The prophet Jeremiah rejects the thoughts that bring despair, regret, and depression; instead he fills his heart with the positive qualities of God: "His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

We ought to think these thoughts not just about ourselves, but also about the deceased we commemorate. There is an ancient expression that advises us to: "have only good thoughts about the dead." The feast of All Souls teaches us to approach death without fear and anxiety, but with confidence and hope for our own life beyond death, and for those who have preceded us to eternity.

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