All Souls Day: We have a Future
This week we celebrate All Souls Day on 2 November, a month in which we remember the dead: our family members, friends, relatives, all those associated with CatholicCare who have died, those who died in conflict and in peace-making.
In the Christian tradition, we believe that we will be judged by Jesus when we die. Pope Benedict XVI has some very consoling words about this Judgement, words which take away fear and bring hope. He makes sense of the image of fire with which many of us grew up and which was disconcerting to a great number of people.
Pope Benedict wrote:
‘The encounter with him (Jesus) is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves.’ (Spe Salvi, 7)
The gaze of Jesus transforms us, Pope Benedict says, ‘sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.’
The transformation is not magic: how we have lived our lives has an effect but what matters is that we have continued to ‘reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it (our wrong-doing) has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion.’
The time it takes for the gaze of Jesus to ‘ sear through us like a flame’ cannot be measured in days, weeks, months or years. ‘The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ.’
Earlier in the same letter, Pope Benedict said that a distinguishing mark of Christians is that we have a future and that it is in this certainty that we can live the present well. (Spe Salvi,2).
Pope Benedict XVI wrote these beautiful words in the second of his great letters (Encyclicals), the first on Love, the second on Hope. the third on Faith. You can find them on the Vatican website: www.vatican.va
Acknowledgement: the image is the Last Judgement over the main door of the church in Conques, France. It is from the twelfth century. Conques is on one of the French Camino routes. Photo: Conques Tourist Office.