The Gospel Today
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
John 6: 37-40
Jesus said to the crowds:
“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 own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”
Reflection: (Sem. Sem. Mark Ian V. Abu)
I once watched a TV news program that featured a survey. It tried to seek of the things that people prepare or bring to the cemetery every November 2. Some of the answers were flowers, candles, food and drinks. According to that news, people normally bring these things as signs of their love to the deceased members of the family. These were manifestations of how much they want to remember their beloved dead on the day particularly dedicated for all of the departed people. Last year I had the chance to serve in the Masses of my parish priest in the cemetery and I remembered that he asked the people in his homilies of the most important things that we can offer to our beloved dead. He added that all the flowers and candles, even the food that we bring to the cemetery were all nothing and useless for these things cannot save any single soul nor bring one to Paradise. What our dead brethren need, he said, are our sincere prayers and supplication to God that they may be forgiven from their sins and be accepted to the glory of heaven. Of course my parish priest was not telling that we should not bring flowers, candles and food anymore. These external things are still necessary for us to express our love for our beloved dead but we should not be preoccupied by these so much so that we neglect to offer prayers for them and for their salvation.
I am from Batangas and I grew up witnessing the traditional prayers for the dead which we normally pray on the ninth day after the death of a person, also after 40 days and on the occasion of the death anniversary. I myself experienced bringing flowers and candles to the tomb of my relatives and together with my cousins stayed even overnight in the cemetery while eating and sharing experiences. But I always remember my grandmother when she was still alive, she would tell us not to miss attending the Mass and offer special prayer intentions for all our dead relatives. All these things made me realize that the souls of the dead need our prayers for their eternal peace and happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven. This belief encourages me have a particular devotion of praying for the repose of the souls of all the departed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus narrates the story of what will happen in the Last Judgment when He will separate the people according to their deeds as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. In a normal sheepfold there are always the sheep and the goats taken care together by a shepherd. Usually the goats are the one leaving the fold while the sheep silently follow the shepherd. We are being compared to these animals in the sheepfold of our True and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As sheep we faithfully follow the way where our shepherd is leading us but there are some among us who choose to go astray by leaving the fold just like the goats. In as much as we want to be followers of our shepherd, who will surely bring us to good pasture and will protect us from the wolves that would devour us, there are still goats that just run away from the fold and wander alone in the field which is very prone to the danger of other wild animals. We become sheep when we are responsible to all the duties entrusted to us, when we are good parents to our children, when we are just to our employees, when we are kind to our classmates, when we are true to our words and deeds. On the other hand, we become goats when we are thinking only of our own selves, when we are envy of the success of others, when we are unfair in relating to other people, when we gossip about the life of others.
Our last end, whether we will be at the right side of Jesus or at His left when He comes at the Last Judgment, would depend on the love we give to the people around us at present. Jesus rewards the sheep at His right because they are faithful to all His teachings and they show love and concern to all their needy brethren but the goats at His left, He throws them to the everlasting fire because they neglect to serve others.
Let us continue to pray that our departed loved ones be rewarded happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven and that we may be faithful sheep in the fold of Christ in order to receive the glory which is reserved for the beloved children of God since the beginning of the world.