Homily: Mass for deceased members of the Knights of the Southern Cross, November, 2014

18th November, 2014

Isaiah 25:6-9.  Matthew 5:1-12.

As I grow older I become ever more conscious that we live in the midst of mystery; a mystery understood completely now by those men and women gone before us, who have met God face to face, and now understand the mystery of existence with a wisdom about which we can only dream.

The question of where we go when we die is a question that has puzzled and continues to puzzle the minds of many. It is a question that brings out the fact that we realize that this life has to end and no matter how strong we are, no matter how rich or poor; all of us have to die someday. Death has been, and will continue to be, a mystery!

As Christians, we pray for the dead, in particular praying for their eternal rest and the forgiveness of any sins they may have committed. As we are doing now, we offer Masses for the repose of souls, particularly in this month of November. We ponder the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church on the meaning of death and suffering; and we work — as Knights of the Southern Cross know so well — to support those who are left behind.
Each of us will have his or her own personal memories of our family, colleagues and friends, and all of our former members will be remembered for the goodness and the sincerity of their Christian lives and their dedication not only to individual acts of charity, but also to a deep sense of faith and commitment to the Church.   

The commemoration of the faithful departed reminds us that we are still one with those who have gone before us into eternal life, and that death is not and can never be the end. Since they are alive, we still owe them love and support in Christ’s name, even beyond the grave. This unity is what we know as the communion of saints.

Today’s readings give us an opportunity to look at the mystery of death and the new life that Christ has won and promised for all of us who believe.  In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we do not find any clear theology of the resurrection of the dead. During most of the time before Christ, only a vague idea of afterlife is found, but continued to develop over time. However, the view of the future within these chapters is universal in outlook and speaks of God’s power in heaven and on earth. It contains an invitation to feast and rejoice and an assurance that all tears will be wiped away, and that God will reveal himself as a God who saves.

Actually this is the image of the Eucharist where we gather to celebrate and to look forward to the heavenly banquet. It is also a reminder of the hope in things to come. Then too, the inclusive nature of this vision reminds us, especially when things are most distressing, how very important it is to look beyond ourselves and beyond our immediate circumstances and to find ways to assist others, as KSC members do so readily.

In St Matthew’s Gospel, this section of the ‘Beatitudes’ is one of the most loved portions of the Gospel. It forms the beginning of what has come to be known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. This is the first and longest message of Jesus that we have in the Gospel. Jesus had been announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and He had been calling for people to repent. Now, in what has been described as the manifesto of His kingdom, Jesus unveils the foundations and character of life in that kingdom. Here He teaches the ethical guidelines for life in His kingdom; and the guidelines point to the quality of righteousness that characterizes life in the kingdom, now in part, but fully in the future

These beatitudes give a picture of the character of the true people of God; those who are a part of his kingdom and have the full blessings of the kingdom to which to look forward. Taken together they give the picture of the perfect disciple of Christ who is the heir of the promises.

Even as we commemorate the faithful departed, we must remember that the readings of today do not focus on death at all; rather they focus on life and life in abundance. After God has spoken in Jesus, death is seen only as a transition from one kind of life to another.

Let us therefore pray for and express gratitude to our departed Knights, as we proceed with this Eucharis, and let us join ourselves to them and pray that they enjoy the fullness of life which we all seek.

May God continue to bless Knights of the Southern Cross with men and women of the calibre of those who have gone before, and may we continue to be inspired by their courage, commitment and generosity. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.  Amen.

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson