There are things in this world that are worse than death. Chief among them is the loss of one we hold dear. If we are fortunate, we love someone enough that we would risk or even give our lives to save them. At our best, we human beings are capable of loving another more than ourselves, more than life itself.
Allow me to make a request: as you read this column, take a moment and think of the people or person you love the most. Is your love so great that you would fear losing them more than you would fear for yourself? Is the love strong enough that you would risk everything for them?
Now consider this extraordinary reality: This love you feel, as deep as it may be, is merely a pale shadow against the depth of the love Jesus feels for you. As you have looked in your mind’s eye at those you love, try to imagine for a moment the magnitude of divine love. In the letter to the Romans, Paul spoke of the rare and precious love that allows one person to lay down life for another. Paul went on to point out the marvelous love of God expressed in Jesus’ self-sacrifice for our sake. Jesus loves you so completely, so passionately, that he has given his life so that you might have life. Jesus risked all, suffered all, and gave all for you. The only one truly free from fear of death, embraced death so that we might live. Now, even in the face of death, we have hope in the unfailing love of Our Lord and Savior.
This life-giving love poured forth in Jesus is the source of our consolation as we remember our lost loved ones on All Souls Day. It is no accident that All Souls follows the great Feast of All Saints. The remembrance of the Saints, and the assurance that they remain a living part of the communion of the faithful, inspire our hope for our own loved ones on All Souls.
The Lord understands our grief at the loss of our loved ones. Even as he offers the hope of life to the departed, he offers consolation and strength to the bereaved. Recall his visit to Martha and Mary after the terrible loss of their brother, Lazarus. His compassion for them in their grief was deeply personal. While the Lord’s own self sacrificial death and resurrection remained in the future, his visit to them would proclaim the truth that he himself is the resurrection and the life. Where he is present, death is overcome and love and life abound. Martha and Mary learned to trust the Lord and his word in the most powerful way possible.
As we remember our loved ones on All Souls, we remember first the love that God pours forth in Jesus. We may mourn, but we mourn in hope. Our relationship with Jesus brings us a share in his life and the hope of eternal life for ourselves and all whom we love.