November 2, 2003
There’s a German proverb which says, “Those who live in Christ will never see each other for the last time.” It is a beautiful thought, isn’t it? It is certainly a thought that is apropos to this feast that we celebrate today, the feast of All Souls. For today we remember our beloved dead and look forward to be reunited with them. Yet the older that we become and the closer that we draw to death, the easier it is to begin to doubt whether the reality of life after death is true. Once we have really lost someone we love in death, the more tempted we may be to ask, whether we are we only kidding ourselves about eternal life. Could it be that we do not want to face the frightful possibility that death is the final curtain, the end of the line?
Life after death, of course, requires belief. There is no way to prove eternal life. Yet can we find something to support our faith? Is there something that we can point to that could assist us in believing? We certainly have the words of Christ and the teaching of the church. Jesus says in today’s gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even if they die will live. And those who believe and live in me will never die.” The consistent teaching of the church throughout the centuries is that Christ has conquered death and that we will reign with Christ forever. That is our faith. Yet, death is so personal and seemingly so final. Is there something else that can support us? Is there something more personal on which we can base the belief in eternal life?
I believe that there is. I would suggest to you that our faith in eternal life can be based upon our present faith in the life that we are living. What do I mean by this present faith? Present faith is our conviction, that the good things that happen to us in our life come from our relationship with a loving God. Present faith leads us to the conviction that the day that we met our future spouse for the first time was not simply a matter of good luck. It was the work of a God who was loving us and leading us to a union in which we could share life and love with another and together build a family. Present faith leads us to the assertion that God has saved us. We can claim that God was involved in healing my cancer, that God was involved in giving me power over my addiction, that God was involved when I reconciled with an estranged family member or perhaps even an enemy. Present faith tells us that the joy that we feel when we hold our newborn son or walk our daughter down the aisle at her wedding is not simply a joy that comes from good fortune, but is the result of a God who has loved us and blessed us.
Now clearly present faith cannot be proven. Those who do not have faith will say that we are deluding ourselves when we claim God is active in our lives. They will assert that life is a series of random events and that our joys and blessings are simply the result of good fortune. It is difficult to convince those who think in that manner that there is another way to view life. They simply do not believe. But we do believe. As believers we have hundreds of people and hundreds of events that we can claim as signs of God’s presence in our life. This is the present faith in which we live from day to day.
Once we claim this present faith, it can become the foundation for our faith in life eternal. Because if we believe that God has loved us and is loving us now, is it not logical, is it not even expected, that God will continue to love us even after death? If we believe that God has blessed us and is continuing to bless us now, why would we imagine that God would stop blessing us even when our life here comes to an end?
Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls. We remember our beloved family members and friends who have gone before us in death. We claim in the words of the German proverb that we have not seen them for the last time. But if you are tempted to doubt that truth, if you begin to question whether there is indeed life hereafter, then I suggest you do this. Claim your present faith. Ask yourself, “Do I believe that God has saved me, that God has blessed me, that God is loving me?” And once you claim those truths, ask yourself, “Why would God choose to limit those gifts to this life only?” If we believe that we belong to God today, can we not also believe that even after death that relationship with God will continue?