For all, grief at the loss of someone we love, especially those who have died tragically is dreadfully painful, and only those who have felt it can properly understand this. For Christians, our grief is equally painful but it is not a hopeless grief because we will meet our loved ones again. We will all be together again.
It is fitting that we remember our loved ones in this month of November, the month of the souls. Yet the truth is, for those we’ve loved and lost, we never forget them. They are always with us. From the moment we wake up and begin the day, sometimes by the skin of our teeth, until we lie down and when we are asleep and when we can’t sleep, they are with us in our thoughts and prayers.
And they think of us too, they remember us in the presence of God. The first reading today tells us that the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God. And the hands of God are a very safe place to be and surely we can be confident that they are in good hands.
The second reading is all about hope. St. Paul was reminding the people of Thessalonica that we’re different to those who don’t believe. Our faith, which was given to us by our parents and grandparents, brings the dead to life in Jesus Christ, by the power of His resurrection. The challenge therefore according to St. Paul, is to encourage one another. And I give thanks to God for the Road Safety Authority and to those who have organised this Mass. These are tangible ways of solidarity, support and encouragement, and this lights up the darkness.There is a thin skin between our world here and the next world. And there is a constant movement of prayers going between earth and heaven. We connect with our loved ones in Jesus Christ because He is the way. They connect with us, and they know we are with them too. Whenever we become quiet, light a candle, or say a prayer, we connect. And in modern language, this connection is always strong, and the signal never drops. It’s a kind of a celestial broadband that is always on and is always free.
In speaking about our faith in life after death, Pope Francis tells us that Jesus affirms that our pilgrimage, our journey, goes from death towards a fuller life. So, the Holy Father points out that death is in a sense behind us, not in front of us. In front of us is the God of the living, the definitive defeat of sin and death, the start of a new time of joy and endless light. But already on this earth – in prayers, in Sacraments, in the Mass – we encounter Jesus and his love, and so we can get a small taste of the risen life.
I was chaplain in a school in west Dublin after my ordination in 1997. In my second year there, we lost a lovely girl, a sixth-year pupil, following a road traffic accident. Two of her siblings were also pupils and the whole school was shocked and numb with grief. During the subsequent days, I witnessed such love and solidarity that I will never forget how the whole community came out to pray for the family left behind. One of the things I began to do then after Communion at every Mass was to pray the prayer to the Guardian Angel. This was reinforced when I later worked in the Chaplaincy Department of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. There I saw the great care and skills of the emergency services, the nursing staff, the surgeons and medics, and the care staff, and other professionals. For me, the prayer to the Guardian Angel is just a small way of praying for safety on the roads and of supporting the great work of the Road Safety Authority. It is also to pray for all those who are left behind following the death or serious injury of someone involved in a road traffic accident.
O Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love, commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.