We human beings are very good at lying to ourselves. No more is this apparent than in the face of death. There is a poem which is often read at funerals. It's actually ripped out of context from a sermon by the great Canon Henry Scott Holland. It goes like this:
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
This is a lie. It is a cruel lie which doesn't take human beings, our deepest emotions, loves, and losses seriously. Death is not nothing. It is a cruel, and universal, human reality, which takes loved ones away from us. It brings tears, suffering, loneliness and unfulfilled dreams.
Today we acknowledge this reality. Without attempting to deny the bitterness of death, we bring the entire human race, living and departed, in all its brokenness to our heavenly Father. We pray for all the dead. We remember the good and the bad, the young and the old, those who were close to us and those separated by time and space. Every single human being who ever lived on this planet is today remembered by the Church, which commends them all to the God who wills that all might be saved.
We don't pretend that the hope of resurrection means that we, who still live, don't feel the pain of loss. Nor do we pretend that the dead were perfect while they lived. We commend them to God asking that loose ends be tied up, sins forgiven, and the relationships that were never healed on earth be brought to perfection in eternity.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. But our hope is hard won, through the Cross, through our own loss, and through that process of growth continuing through death that the Church has traditionally called 'purgatory'.
This is a bittersweet day, a day both of hope and of sadness. Come to Mass if you can - here we offer for all the departed the sacrifice of the One who wept for a dead friend, Jesus who conquered death. If you can't get to Mass, say a prayer for all the dead, asking God that they may come to share in the glory of the saints which we celebrated yesterday.
A Prayer for the Dead
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.