Faith in the risen Christ is nothing other than the faith of Abraham – the promise of a future and of a country… now this future is concerned in an incomparably more radical fashion. It strides across the frontier of death, which is the real antithesis to man’s attachment to the future. Man has been made so that he cannot live without a future.
Faith and the Future, 39-40
Reflection – Happy All Souls’ Day. Is that the right sentiment? It’s not exactly a ‘feast day’ – it’s one of two days in the church calendar that doesn’t fall under the usual scale of ferial-memorial-feast-solemnity (the other is Ash Wednesday). It is a day to be called to prayer for the dead, as Ash Wednesday is a day of prayer for forgiveness of sin. However, prayer is a happy act, and our faith is that God is both merciful towards sinners and desires the salvation of all, so I guess ‘Happy All Souls’ Day’ it is.
This beautiful passage from Ratzinger helps with the general happiness around this day and the subject of death in general, though, too. Man cannot live without a future—this is so true. Most of the time, most people don’t like to think about death, talk about death, contemplate their own death. There is something about the prospect of being cut off, ended, terminated, that somehow bothers most people.
Christians can be as prone to this as anyone, which is a lamentable commentary on the state of our faith. There is a normal natural anxiety around death, at least natural in our fallen condition—fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of an unhappy end. But Christians must, if we have faith, temper that anxiety with a lively faith in Christ.
Christ is this one striding over the frontier of death, like Moses striding across the
Red Sea, like Joshua striding into the promised land. The whole Christian attitude towards death must be entirely Christ-centered, a sure and certain hope for eternal life and happiness based entirely on the resurrection of Christ.
This, I realize, is becoming increasingly incomprehensible in the secular world. We have become in our culture so earth-bound, so dreadfully confined to this life, this world, these current prospects for happiness and health and security. Even in the Church and among Christians who truly are of good will and faith, there is a curious reluctance to look upwards to the true future of mankind, the true hope in store for us.
God wants us to go to heaven, you know. We are not made to remain on this earth and in this mode of existence for a prolonged period of time. We come into being here, we are born here, and our life here and now matters tremendously… but it’s not our final destination.
And neither is the grave and the rot and corruption therein. We are made for glory, for new and lasting life in the love and light of God. The future Christ opens up for us is a beautiful joyous one. I really don’t know why our contemporary secular culture and even church culture has turned away from that with such force.
So Happy All Souls’ Day. It’s a good day to pray for all our dead, asking that God be merciful to them all and welcome them into his kingdom. And it’s a good day to have a good hard look at the reality of death—our own death, the death of everyone we know and love—and claim our deep Christian hope in the resurrection.