November 2nd, All Souls Day, is easily passed over. Catholics get busy (guilty as charged), Protestants get spooked, and at best the wider culture has a quirky, tattoo-shop fascination with Día de los Muertos on account of the decorations. As feast days go, it sits in a humble slot.
And yet, I would argue, it is in its way the greatest day of the year. If Christmas and Easter and Pentecost are the how of salvation, All Souls is the why. From today’s readings:
“For this is the will of my Father,Read the entire Mass readings here, listen here.
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”
Why is death so overwhelming? Because our deepest longing as human beings is for eternal happiness.
Every religion, every strand of agnosticism or atheism, seeks desperately to make peace with the reality of death. It’s a peace that can only be made if we believe that the time after death is good enough, pleasant enough, to be endured and enjoyed. Some religions do this via elaborate funerary rites that negotiate a more fortunate passage into the underworld. Atheism’s offer is that at least after you are annihilated, you won’t suffer any more. It might be eternal nothing, but at least it’s a painless nothing.
But deep inside, we know we are made for more.
Today is the day 100% centered on that more. On the reality of eternal life. Not a deep sleep, but a deep awakening. An eternity more alive, more joyful, more real than anything we have ever known.
That reality is what animates the rest of the Church calendar. Christmas is just gluttony and bad budgeting, unless Christ is coming to save us. Good Friday is needless torment, unless Christ is working to save us. Easter is perhaps the world’s most impressive showmanship, but no more than that, unless Christ is victorious in the work of saving us.
The glory of God is His divine love. That love is why His creation, His miracles, His death and resurrection, all His works are good. If those actions were not the embodiment of love, God would be at best sterile, and more likely a horror.
Love is for someone or something. That’s what love is. It is the act of willing the good of another.
Today is the feast of God’s ultimate purpose in loving us. Amen.