All Souls Day / Sacrament for the Dying

In 13 Today's Church on 2015/11/01 at 12:00 AM

The twin feast days of All Saints and All Souls bring the topic of death into sharp relief in our liturgies this week.

  • Yesterday we were shown a glimpse of what death can bring if we live a good and holy life, following God’s will to the best of our abilities, and begging pardon for the times we fail: it can bring us the eternal bliss of Heaven enjoyed by the saints.
  • Yesterday we were inspired by the saints to live just this kind of life on earth, so that when our time on earth is through, they may welcome us into the wedding feast of Christ our King.
  • Today, however, we are called to remember not just the saints in Heaven, but all souls who died and gone before us to the judgment throne of God.
  • To pray for the deceased is an important element of our Catholic faith. It’s a sacred duty that the Church asks us to take on so that the souls in Purgatory may be cleansed of their sins and taken into the light of heaven.
  • But these two feasts do not call us to simply meditate on the deaths of those who have gone before us. These two feasts call us to meditate on our own deaths as well!
  • Some day we will face our Creator and have to make an accounting of our lives. Our death is truly the most important moment of our entire life, for it is in this dramatic moment that our eternal destiny is decided!
  • Our eternal fate will rest upon the state of our souls and the attitude we have before God at that moment our souls slip away from our mortal bodies.
  • Considering the absolute importance of this moment, it is imperative that we prepare well for our deaths. And we should prepare by realizing that the moment of death may be a moment of great spiritual struggle.
  • You see, my brothers and sisters, the evil one knows that this is the last moment he has to procure our souls for his kingdom of death.
  • For those souls in mortal sin, satan tempts them severely in their last moments to reject God completely, thereby stealing their souls for all eternity.
  • And for those souls in the state of grace, he will assault them like never before – using every tool he has to take those souls away from God’s grace.
  • But death can also be a moment of tremendous grace and mercy. God never leaves any soul without His divine aid, most especially in this moment of supreme importance. As a priest I’ve seen that death can be the moment when God works His greatest miracles.
  • Several years ago I was called to the bedside of an elderly woman dying of cancer. This particular woman had lived a hard life with an abusive husband. After more than 50 unhappy years of marriage, she was bitter and angry with both her husband and God.
  • I asked her if she wished to receive the sacraments, and she said wanted Holy Communion, but not confession. As we talked a bit, I very quickly realized that her soul was in no condition to receive Holy Communion, let alone face God.
  • In that moment – knowing that her death was near – I felt the very real struggle for this woman’s soul: the struggle between the forces of good and evil, and quite honestly it scared me.
  • After 45 minutes of frank conversation imploring her to repent, and silently begging our Lord and His Mother for help, something inside this woman broke. The tears began to flow from her eyes, and she asked to go to confession – her first in many years.
  • Her daughter‐in‐law told me later that she died that night peacefully and with a smile on her face. Truly, my brothers and sisters, we should all hope to die with that type of peace.
  • Priestly ministry has taught me that most of us die as we’ve lived. For those who have lived in that peace that only comes from doing God’s will, they usually die peacefully and filled with hope.
  • But for those who have fought or ignored God’s will in this life, death approaches as a frightening specter of darkness of gloom.
  • In short, whoever lives his life in union with God’s will; whoever has chosen for God in this life will generally have no problem choosing God and His mercy at this last and decisive moment of his life.
  • But for those who ignore God and choose their own will instead of His, salvation will only come through a miracle of God’s mercy.
  • So as we mourn for our loved ones and pray for the happy repose of their souls, let us not forget to live our lives for God. Let us honestly repent of all of our sins and ask for our Lord’s mercy.
  • In all things, let us always trust in our Lord’s promise of mercy: both for ourselves, and for those who have already died.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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