31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Mk 12:28-24
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Homily Notes for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Mk 12:28-24
· While this Sunday marks the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, many around the world are more interested in celebrating the holiday occurs on the 31st of October, Halloween.
· Many Christians want nothing to do with this holiday, seeing it too steeped in ancient and contemporary pagan and even satanic practices to give it any value for a follower of Christ. Yet the origins and past practices of Halloween or All Hallows Eve are important as we prepare for the month of November that has long been dedicating to praying for the faithful departed.
· It was more common in the past for Catholics to spend the day before any major Christian solemnity by taking part in what was known as a vigil, marked by a day of fasting and prayer to prepare oneself for the celebration to come.
· In the late 8th century AD, the Solemnity of the Omnium Sanctorum, or All Saints, become a widespread celebration in Christendom on November 1st.
· To prepare for this glorious day when we exalted all the saints who reign in heaven, All Hallows (meaning All Sanctified) Eve was marked by such practices as abstaining from meat as a sign of penitential preparation for the feast the next day, and of beginning to pray for the faithful departed who would be especially remembered on November 2nd, when priests would offer 3 Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and Christians would visit cemeteries to light candles for their beloved dead as a sign of their prayers as helping to bring the holy souls to the eternal light of heaven.
· It was also believed that in the month of November, when the natural world was beginning to fall into a cycle of death as the winter cold arrived, that the veil between this world and the next began to thin and God in His mercy would allow the souls in Purgatory to return to earth during the days of October 31stto November 2nd, not to haunt the living, but to visit their families and seek their prayers to help purify their souls from the remains of sin so that they too might be known as saints.
· This is why it was once the custom of All Hallows Eve to ring church bells as a call for Christians to pray for the beloved dead, or why families would leave an empty seat at their dinner table, along with some food, as a sign of hospitality were a soul in purgatory to visit to them, and or the custom of “souling”, when children, especially from impoverished families, would visit the homes of the wealthy to receive soul cakes, where in exchange for this food they would promise to pray for the dead of their wealthy benefactors.
· Much more could be said about the deeply Catholic roots of All Hallows Eve and the great celebrations of All Saints and All Souls Days in various cultures throughout the Catholic world, but I would like to now connect these three days to the Gospel of this Mass.
· In a sense, the next three days are ones where we can discover that praying for the faithful departed is a fulfillment of the commandments to love God and Neighbour.
· On All Hallows Eve, we might consider how we can show our love of God, who is rich in mercy and compassion, and love of our faithful departed neighbours by taking time today to fast in some way, as a spiritual sacrifice for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and a means for us to be more spiritually aware of any family members or friends who we might suspect require our prayers since they remain in Purgatory.
· On All Saints Day, we can take time to consider the marvellous company of Saints who reign in heaven above and are perpetually inviting us to join their glorious ranks! We know that each and every saint is a saint because they loved God with all of their being and loved their neighbour for being a brother or sister in Christ and knowing that to love them is to love the presence of Christ who dwells within them.
· We could spend part of November 1st reading from the lives of our favourite saints or lighting a candle before a picture or statue of their likeness as a reminder that we too can be like them if we are willing and able to imitate their witness and love.
· On All Souls Day, we can show our love for God by praying for our beloved dead, not only as a means to help them be liberated from purgatory but also to be a witness and testimony to others that love for our family and friends does not have to end in this life, but continues on into eternity. We know that in this life we are called to love those most in need of mercy, yet the Holy Souls in Purgatory are even more in need of our mercy and love because they are unable to pass through the purifying fires without our assistance!
· They need our love and something as simple as saying an Our Father for them or reciting Psalm 130, the De Profundis which is a common psalm to pray for the dead, or lighting a candle for them accompanied by a prayer or act of penance, or to pray for them at one of the three Masses that will be offered in our parish on November 2nd or at sometime this week to visit our columbarium and local cemetery to pray for the faithful departed, each of these acts are acts of love, Love for God as we trust he will bring these souls into paradise and love of neighbour as we assist those who spiritually cannot do anything for themselves.
· In times past these three days were known as AllHallowTide, may we not miss the opportunity to fill these 3 days with much love, prayer and spiritual sacrifices for the faithful departed.