MASS OF REMEMBRANCE
By: Bernadette Moore-Gibson
“…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. Jesus said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
In this church today we will share in the Mass of Remembrance for those who have died.
Together we mourn the losses of some wonderful people. But I pray our masses today will be one of celebration of what awaits us, and a celebration of those who have gone before us and are already experiencing God’s peace. Today, we commemorate the threshold where God will wipe away all our tears and where there will be no more death. Each week in our Creed we pray together that we believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. In doing so, we prove our hope that our loved ones have a place in the Kingdom of God. For so many of us facing losses, our lives will never be quite the same. And yet…some things are still the same. Traditions continue. Another day begins and hope endures. As a people of faith, we need to remember that. Life goes on. And, more importantly, by God’s grace, love goes on.
After His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples at various times and in various ways. One of the most poignant manifestations of His Resurrection was His appearance to the two disciples making their way on the road to Emmaus. Only Luke records the story. Perhaps like us, these two disciples, walked 7 miles down a winding road of grief questioning their losses. And this is where the story takes an interesting turn.
“They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus began to walk with them and listen to them and love them. Mysteriously restrained from recognizing Jesus, the two disciples were confused that this “stranger” was unaware of the news making events of the past several days in Jerusalem. After all that Cleopas and the other disciples had witnessed, heard and lost, they were still totally confused and downhearted about Jesus’ death. It took Jesus’ own explanation of the words of the scriptures to help them understand the significance of the resurrection and then for their hearts to burn with the newness of their understanding. Amazed by the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus, the disciples uttered a cry of the heart that still reverberates in the souls of believers everywhere: “Stay with us.” Only Christ – the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb – can make sense of the trials that confront a person as we face death. “Stay with us” gives God “permission” to remain in our lives through the invisible but nevertheless real principle of grace.
I love the Gospel of Emmaus because when Jesus came and talked to those two broken disciples, the meaning of life became clear, and the darkness became light. Perhaps we all walk the road to Emmaus. We all know what it’s like to try and walk just far enough to get away from the misery and confusion of our losses. The longer we live, the more times life asks us to say goodbye to someone who has died and for whom we have loved. Like so many of you, I have said goodbye to people I loved this past year. I have known both the depths of grief and the lingering sense of loss that causes me to question my faith. I have also learned that although their bodies live no more, in a very real way, these loves ones are with me still. Because even in the midst of “no longer” here on earth, there is a ray of hope that shines within me. A knowing. A promise that I will one day see my loved ones again. Even those disciples who had encountered the Risen Lord needed time to come to a full understanding of this new reality. That is the challenge of our Christian life.
It is my prayer that as we continue on this Emmaus Road together, that we will find our hearts burning within us as we come to recognize that Jesus walks with us in our grief. Together we trust in the God who loves to care for us and our loved ones in life and also in death. And so we pray, May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.