1 Peter 1. 3 – 9
John 6. 37 – 40
All Souls’ Day
“Although you have not seen Jesus, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”
These words from our first reading sum up one of the most important aspects of the Christian life – faith in Jesus.
But it’s actually one of the hardest things we’re asked to do – to love and believe in someone we cannot physically see or experience in the way we’re used to. It can be really tough to keep believing, and keep the faith. And perhaps we might feel a little of the same sort of struggle in our remembering tonight. We love those who have died, of course: but how can we believe that they’re ok – that they’re still with us? As hard as we try to keep memories alive, sometimes faces start to get a bit harder to picture, voices a bit more difficult to hear. We might feel that over time we lose our connection to them. The wonderful thing about the way in which we remember this evening, is that we’re not simply trying to remember how things were. We’re asking God to make their presence real to us in this place – we’re asking God to ‘re-member’ them, to re-make and put back together those connections that were so important in our lives. Not
merely to recall what has gone – but to rejoice in what lives on within us.
That’s what we do every week when gather together in the Eucharist – we remember Jesus, but we don’t try to form a picture of him in our minds – we have not seen him, after all. But we ask him to make his presence real to us through bread and wine, through prayer and thanksgiving. And in his love, he does, in a way that changes the way we live now, that strengthens us to face the future. So although we have not seen him – as Peter says, we love him, and we rejoice. It might seem strange to use the word ‘rejoice’ at a time like this, but that is at the heart of what characterises life in Jesus. Joy.
Because today we don’t just remember a life past – this isn’t a memorial, in that sense. We’re here to rejoice with our loved ones in the new way of living that they have entered. Dying to this part of life, so that they may begin their new experience of life with God.
And they still live with us too. The memories we treasure, the ways in which their lives changed and shaped ours. None of that disappears – as Jesus said in our Gospel, nothing of that is lost. God holds it all, as he holds all of the departed, in his loving embrace.
And as we remember them here – as we ask God to ‘re-member’ them in our hearts and in our minds, we participate with God in his great work of compassion – because it is his will that nothing he has made is ever forgotten. “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” Amen.