We must look constantly to the "Last Things"

At the general audience in St Peter's on Wednesday, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, the Holy Father offered the following reflections based on the reading from St Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 12 to 17.

1. "We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come".

Today, the liturgical Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, our thought rests on the band of brothers and sisters who have gone before us to our eternal goal. We are called upon to resume with them, in the depths of our hearts, that dialogue which death must not cut short.

There is no person who does not have relatives, friends, acquaintances to remember. There is no family that does not return to its original roots with feelings of mourning, of human and Christian piety.

But our remembrance wants to go beyond these legitimate and dear affectionate bonds and extend to the horizon of the world. In this way we include all the dead, wherever they may be buried, in every corner of the earth, from the cemeteries of the big cities to those of the most modest village. For all of them, with a fraternal heart, we raise our pious prayer for their eternal rest to the Lord of life and death.

Eschatological message

2. The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed must be a day of reflection, especially on the extraordinary occasion of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption which we are celebrating.

In fact, commemorating the departed makes us meditate first of all on the eschatological message of Christianity: on the revealing word of Christ the Redeemer, we are sure of the immortality of the soul. In reality, life is not locked in the horizon of this world: the soul, directly created by God, when it reaches the body's physiological end, remains immortal, and our bodies themselves will rise again, transformed and spiritualized. The profound and decisive significance of our human and earthly existence lies in our "personal" immortality: Jesus came to reveal this truth to us. Christianity is certainly also a "humanism" and strongly proposes the integral development of every man and every people, involving itself in all the movements intended for individual and social progress. But its message is essentially ultra?terrestrial, placing the whole meaning of existence in the perspective of immortality and responsibility. Therefore the immense multitudes of those who in past ages have already reached the end of their lives are all very much alive. Our dear departed are still living and present, even in some way along our daily journey. "Life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven!" (Preface of Christian Death I).

3. In the second place, this day makes us think rightly of the frailty and precariousness of our life, it makes us think of the mortal condition of our existence. How many persons have already passed on from this earth of ours! How many who once were with us with their affections and their presence are no longer here! We are pilgrims on earth and we are not sure of the length of time that is granted us. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews thoughtfully warns: "It is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged" (Heb 9:27). The Holy Year of the Redemption reminds us especially that Christ came to bring divine "grace", to redeem mankind from sin, to forgive faults. The reality of our death reminds us of the pressing warning of the Divine Master: "Stay awake!" (cf. Mt 24:42; 25:13; Mk 13:35). We must therefore live in God's grace, through prayer, frequent confession, the Eucharist. We must live in peace, with God, with ourselves, with everyone.

Meditation on the Last Things

4. The entire teaching and the whole attitude of Jesus are aimed toward the eternal realities, in view of which the Divine Master does not hesitate to ask for difficult re- nunciations and great sacrifices. The reality of our death must not make life sad nor impede it in its activities. It must only make it extremely serious. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews cautions us that "here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come" (Heb 13:14), and St Paul echoes this with an expression of vivid realism: "What I do is discipline my own body and master it" (1 Cor 9:27). In fact, we know that "the sufferings of the present are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).

5. Dearest brothers and sisters, the reflections suggested to us by the Commemoration of  All the Faithful Departed immerse us in the great chapter of the "Last Things" death, judgment, hell, heaven. This is the perspective that we must have uninterruptedly before our eyes, this is the secret why life always has fullness of meaning and is lived every day with the strength of hope.

Let us meditate often on the Last Things and we will always better understand the profound meaning of living.

With this exhortation I impart to you from my heart my affectionate and paternal Apostolic Blessing.

L'Osservatore Romano November 7, 1983
Reprinted with permission