2nd November, 2020

Fr Gabriel's Homily for All Souls

Ampleforth Abbey



Today’s commemoration is firmly rooted in the instinct to pray for those who have died. We pray for them because they are believed to be on a journey of purgation, of preparation for them to attain the fulness of their salvation in heaven in the vision of God.

It is an instinct of Christian believing, not yet a clear understanding of what is to be. Without this faith it is hard to see that human life ends other than sadly and badly, a last gasped breath, a process of physical dissolution and reduction by means slow or quick.

It can leave behind painful mourning, Isaiah’s ‘mourning veil covering all peoples and the shroud enwrapping all nations’ in the first reading, and it can leave behind painful guilt. There are deaths in tragic circumstances, though the circumstances are always in some measure tragic, even when the end comes peacefully in the fullness of years.

For Isaiah it is only the Lord who can remove the mourning veil and the shroud, who can wipe away the tears. It often enough takes time. So the prophet continues that there is a day for which to wait: ‘That day, it will be said: See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation … we exult and we rejoice that he has saved us’.

To the despairing riposte that this is all but wishful thinking, St Paul responds, in today’s second reading, that on the contrary ‘hope is not deceptive’ and he has a proof ‘because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us’. It is the experience of this which sustains and animates the Christian faith and the Christian church through the centuries and which guides, inspires and rules us still: ‘we are filled’ says St Paul ‘with joyful trust in God’.

For St Paul, needless to say, this trust is founded in the paschal mystery: ‘having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger’.

In today’s Gospel, which is from Matthew, we hear the promise of Jesus that he will reveal the Father to us, that in him we will be united to God. Then in Matthew alone we hear the further words of promise for All Souls: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’. He continues Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light’. Jesus’ yoke and burden is his cross; it must seem impossibly heavy and yet for us he makes it easy and light, because we carry the cross in him.

‘I will give you rest’ and ‘you will find rest for your souls’. We pray for ourselves daily ‘that we may watch with Christ and rest peacefully’ and more than daily for All Souls that through the mercy of God they may ‘rest in peace’.

Let us pray for All Souls

Rest eternal grant to them O Lord

And let perpetual light shine upon them

May they rest in peace. Amen

Almighty God, we ask you to accept these prayers we make through Christ our Lord. Amen.