This is a special year in as All Souls Day falls on a Sunday. There are a variety of readings that can be used this day but the primary ones can be found here.
This weekend will be a special weekend of commemoration for me. We had the Trick-or-Treating in the Wisconsin cold last night and we will have an All Saints Day party in church this evening (my sons chose St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Maximilian Kolbe). I will remember by grandparents and friends who passed away. I will also visit my parents who are both in good health, but still aging. As it turns colder in the Upper Midwest the changing seasons provide an excellent backdrop for both the memories of those who have come before us and the reality of the end of this life and the preparation for the next. I am asking for the grace to be more loving and kind to those around me, especially my family.
This week’s reflection is from John Predmore, SJ. He provides an excellent analysis of how we need to keep our eyes focused on Christ and love. You can read the full reflection here but set forth below is a summary:
Unity within the church is a primary concern. You will find reference to unity in many liturgical prayers during mass because the early church members knew that we needed to encourage one another to understand the rich nuances of the faith. If we do not stand together, we are vulnerable to attacks from the evil spirits and from those who do not want to understand our majestic tradition. With this in mind, it is disturbing that there is pronounced dissension within the church among Traditionalists, Centrists, and Progressives. The tone and rhetoric is likened to a political campaigner whose goal is to destroy the opponent. This is not the way of Jesus Christ. This is the wrong way to go forward.
In light of this feast, we need to look upon one another to see that their journey to Christ might take a different path than our own. That is O.K. We need to respect where another person is and how it is they want to pursue holiness. In the mode of Pope Francis, we have to withhold judging and making sweeping statements about righteousness. What gives us the right to judge another person? That domain belongs to Christ. The better question to ask is, “Is the person becoming a more loving person?”
Inherent with the debate among the factions of the church is great pain. Traditionalists hold great pain amidst their hope for the church. So do Centrists, as well as Progressives. The tendency is to scold, correct, impose, and to exclude. That is not the way forward. The trick is to be able to touch the pain of others so that our comprehension increases. When we understand the suffering of another, we treat one another better and we refrain from hurting them more deeply. We respect where the “other” is and we are able to treat our brother or sister with due reverence because we who suffer stand in solidarity with other vulnerable sufferers.
The disappointment in these culture wars and church battles is that we focus upon one another’s political stance. We fail to see the Christian at the core. Our important issues become our significant focus and we simply fail to see or respect Christ. We no longer look to God because we are looking at our and our opponent’s positions. We need to raise our eyes and look for God as the first, middle, and last activities of our day. If we do this, then we will agree with Jesus as he speaks to the crowds in the Fourth Gospel when he says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my will but the will of the one who sent me.” God’s will, he continues, “is that I should not lose anything of what he gave me.”
We are Christians. Let us learn to no longer reject our brothers and sisters whose journey may take them on a path that is different from our own. Let us replace this rejection with welcome and acceptance, just as God will not reject anyone who comes to Jesus. We can learn from one another when we reach out to our brothers and sisters and say, “Tell me about your pain. Tell me about your struggle and chaos.” We begin to stand in solidarity with others who are different from us, and we find they are more similar than we imagined. Let us strive for unity that comes from a faith that seeks to understand and we will find great comfort that we are the communion of saints and that God truly is among us. Our souls are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch us. Let us be at peace.