32nd Sunday of the Year ( C ) 2019
Today is a day when we remember all those who died during the two great world wars. So, the readings are appropriate. They’re appropriate because they focus on death and the afterlife. We Catholics believe that we shall rise again after we die. The Gospel concludes, “for to God all men are alive”.
November is a month when we tend to think more about those who have died. Today there will be a big ceremony at the cenotaph; some of you may have seen last night the memorial service at the Royal Albert hall. In November we also think of our deceased parents and relatives, some of us will visit their graves. Here in the church we have a November dead-list, and we pray very specially for those on the list. Is it morbid to do such things? I don’t think so. I like visiting cemeteries. I like to look at the headstones and note how old they were when they died and the names. My mother and father are buried in south west London, together with my brother and two sisters. I don’t go there as often as I should, but I will make special effort to go this month. I like reading obituaries; it’s one of my favourite sections in a newspaper. I find it interesting to read about peoples’ lives in brief.
The church is wise to focus on death at this time. It’s the one reality we can be sure of. Who was the American comedian who said there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. We’ll I don’t know what the church says about taxes but I do know what it says about death, and in particular that death is part of life. We were not born for this life only. No, there is something far greater laid up for us in heaven. So, death is not the end, it’s only the beginning of something new and real. What it will be like exactly we don’t know but we do know that it will be a place of peace and joy and happiness. There’s not a lot of that around now. Not with Brexit and the election coming up. You could say there’s the opposite.
Our life can be summed up as a journey that will only be completed at the hour of our death. Often our lives can be difficult, and often people die after suffering a lot. I had to watch my two siblings die of cancer. That wasn’t easy. And yet I know that suffering is not the worst thing in the world. People can suffer a lot as long as they know that they are loved and wanted. True suffering can be when you feel you are a burden, that you are not wanted. How sad is that. But the church teaches that our sufferings can be joined with those of Christ; we join in his suffering for the salvation of the world. That is quite extraordinary, it takes suffering onto a completely different dimension. I also realize that it is easy to say, but not so easy to experience. And yet people do. I know people who offer up their sufferings for others.
This remembrance Sunday is a chance for us to focus on death and the after-life. We take comfort from the church’s teaching; and those last words of the gospel, ‘for to God all men and women are in fact alive.’