A childhood friend recently shared that my dad and I appeared in one of his dreams. I couldn’t help smiling over this news. Perhaps my dad was signaling his approval of my recent trip to his parents’ village in Canada. Before I could continue my musing, my friend added that my dad looked just as he remembered him and that I appeared as a little girl. Trino and I met decades ago before we entered kindergarten. His dream intrigued me because my dad passed away when I was just eight years old. Though Trino had known my dad, I was amazed that he recognized him six decades later. After discussing the dream and some shared memories further, I hung up the phone and continued my own walk down Memory Lane. I considered the numerous loved ones who’ve passed away in the years since I lost my dad. “Odd that I typed ‘lost’,” I tell myself…
The truth is that my dad would be the first to point out the inaccuracy of my wording. A few years before he passed away, we gathered in our living room to pray for my ailing uncle. When it became clear that recovery was not in his prognosis, my mom encouraged us to pray for my uncle’s happy death. The youngest of us didn’t miss our mom’s meaning and tears flowed freely afterward. It was my dad who assured us that Uncle Gee would be perfectly healthy in heaven. His pneumonia would disappear. The curved spine caused by a childhood bout with polio would straighten and Uncle Gee would walk upright and tall. My dad seemed quite certain that Uncle Gee would live on in a far happier place and that he’d watch over us all the while. With that, my dad taught me that our loved ones who pass away are neither “lost” nor “away”. They are very much alive in a new way.
You know, this past week has been filled with thoughts of loved ones. They include those who were once a part of our own lives and the holy men and women from years and decades and centuries ago who’ve inspired our lives with their goodness. On All Saints and All Souls Days, we honor all of those who now live in that wonderfully new way. We honor some of them by name because we count them among our own family members or our circle of friends. We also honor many others who, unlike Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John of the Cross and Francis of Assisi, haven’t been assigned feast days of their own. Though they remain nameless to us, God and the Church recognize these mighty souls who did the best they could with the circumstances they were given. My friend’s dream set the tone for this week of happy memories and prayerful cheers for all of our loved ones who live in a new way today. With absolute faith in God’s merciful love, I prayed fervently for them and to them all.
I find that the timing of today’s scripture passages couldn’t be better. If you require further convincing of the new way of living which awaits us, read carefully. In the passage from Second Maccabees (7:1-2; 9-14), a widow and her sons willingly undergo torture and death because of “…the hope God gives of being raised up.” In Second Thessalonians (2:16-3:5), Paul’s disciple urges on his followers with God’s “…everlasting encouragement and good hope.” Jesus underscores these lessons with his own. Luke’s gospel (20:27-38) chronicles Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees whose question forced Jesus to address life after this life. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection and Jesus’ teaching in this regard troubled them considerably. As was his custom on such occasions, Jesus used the Sadducees’ knowledge of the scriptures to illustrate the point which they hoped to disprove. The Sadducees had the greatest esteem for the covenant handed down from the God of the Living to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus pointed out that if these holy and beloved patriarchs were dead, then theirs could not be the God of the Living. If theirs was the God of the Living, the patriarchs lived on as well! Though the Sadducees behaved as the villains in this passage, they gave their contemporaries and us cause for great hope.
I admit that belief in life after this life is a given for me. In spite of the tragedies which punctuate this life, it’s impossible for me to deny the new life that is to come. At the same time, I understand the troubles and tragedies which give us all reason to feel a bit like a Sadducee from time to time. At those times, I consider miracles such as the birth of a baby, a wayward teen who grows into a fine adult, an unexpected cure or rekindled love. The joy found in these events hints at the happiness which will come when we live in that new way. In the mean time, I’ll find inspiration in those who’ve gone before me while doing my best before I join them in God’s good time.
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