Commemoration of the faithful departed in the Church of St Alphonsus in Rome

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On the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed, Father Rogério Gomes, CSsR, Superior General, presided over the Mass celebrated by the Redemptorist community in the church of St Alphonsus in Rome.

Here is the homily delivered by Father General:

Dear Brothers and Sisters present at this celebration,

Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, that is, of men and women like all of us who, in the course of their personal history, shaped their lives on the ways of God and the love of neighbour. They are lights guiding us on our personal and community journey towards holiness without forgetting our humanity. The saints were men and women who allowed the fragments of their frailty and their virtues to be assembled with divine cement to form a beautiful work of art, the mosaic of holiness. God’s beauty and splendour show that the first path to holiness is the awareness of our fragmentations without considering ourselves useless on this earth. Our fragments can always be works of art of profound beauty.

In continuity with yesterday’s celebration, today we celebrate the faithful departed. The experience of finitude is part of everything that exists except God. Humanly, we define this experience as death. The threshold between life and death is so tenuous. We live with death every day and forget that it makes us live: we feed on beings, animals and plants that are ‘dead’. We live with death every day: from natural death to death caused by human beings to their brothers and sisters: death caused by disease, war, famine, hunger, migration, abortion, euthanasia, and injustice. As we confront ourselves with death, our experience can be one of pain, abandonment, or of profound indifference. Death is the shadow that accompanies us every day, of which we are afraid because we do not know it and because it is, humanly speaking, our experience of nothingness. This takes on new meaning through faith, the light that shows us something beyond the darkness of the grave.

As we listen to today’s Gospel (Mt 25:31-46), we might ask ourselves: how does this relate to the celebration of the faithful departed? Shouldn’t we speak of the resurrection rather than of those who practised righteousness and those who did not? Without neglecting the beauty and depth of the texts that speak to us of resurrection, life and eternity, Matthew’s text touches on something fundamental. The experience of the Kingdom of God passes through history and our personal relationships with our neighbour and our love for him. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). So, resurrection is when we stand naked before the Lord of Time and History and bring Him only our hands full of the good we have done in this world. It is when we coincide totally with God and live only in Him. He is our eternal life! As Job reminds us, “I know that my redeemer is alive and that, last of all, he will stand upon the dust! After this skin of mine is torn off, without my flesh, I shall see God. I shall see him, myself, my eyes shall behold him, and not another” (Ib 19:25-27).

To celebrate the faithful departed is to remember those we love, who were present with us and who now experience life in God. Today’s celebration allows us to remember with gratitude the people who have left their footprints in our history. Thus we wish to entrust them to the Lord as our most precious gift, which we received from Him and which we now return to Him, still with the pain of nostalgia, in deep gratitude. At the same time, we prepare ourselves for our final Easter with the Lord, the place where we will one day meet through divine love. Those who left have remained silent, but we believe in the resurrection, in the communion of saints, in eternal life. They are and live in God.

Bro Prudente Nery, a Capuchin friar, wrote on the day of his Passover: “When winter arrives in the northern hemisphere, without anyone instructing them, the birds spontaneously take to the sky in an incredible adventure. Driven by the mysterious heritage of their species, following only the magnetic pulsations of the earth, they fly, on the trails of the sun, for thousands of kilometres, night and day, just trying to stay alive. This is how it will be for us, too, when, in the twilight of all autumns, the cold of winter descends upon us. Carried along by the fascinating destiny of our species, we will then fly, following only the calls of eternity, to the abode of light, the heart of God. And there we shall know what we now only intuit and, hearing Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, believe: ‘There are not two kingdoms, the kingdom of the dead and the kingdom of the living, the kingdom of earth and the kingdom of heaven, but only the Kingdom of God, who willed that we should be eternal”.

On this day, I want to remember the lives of all the brothers who have consumed themselves in favour of redemption (dies impedere pro redemptis) and who died from natural causes, from the cross of illness or who gave their lives for the faith, like our martyrs. They remain alive with us through the communion of saints because of their memories of redemption and what they did during their time on earth. Their lives of meaning gave meaning to many other lives through preaching the Gospel, hearing confessions, the countless missionary works they performed, and their charity towards the poor. They understood that whatever one does for one of the little ones is done to the Lord. Thank you to them for the many lives given and until the day we meet in the Lord! In addition, I remember our dear departed lay faithful associated with our mission, our Oblates, the Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer and the Religious Congregations that are part of our Redemptorist Family.

May the Mother of Perpetual Help and our Saints, Martyrs, Blesseds, and Venerables help us to prepare for our final encounter in the glory of the Lord.

Father Rogério Gomes, C.S.R
Superior General

Rome, 02 November 2022

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