A word from Pope Francis ~ “To live as true children of God means to love our neighbor and to be close to those who are lonely and in difficulty.”
After celebrating last week’s Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls, we now celebrate the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time and near the end of our reading of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. He spends his final days teaching in the Temple. In the midst of his teaching, the Pharisees and Sadducees attempt to trap him in his speech and divide the crowds against him. The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife, so they set a trap, based on the Law of Moses, which they hope will undermine belief in a resurrection. Jesus cuts through their hypocrisy and teaches that those found worthy of the resurrection will not be defined or bound by such labels as “single” or “married.” Resurrected life will transcend our limitations. Death will be no more and we will be simply “children of God.” He concludes with a declaration that the Lord is “not God of the dead, but of the living.” That truth is one he proclaims through his life and teachings and especially through his own resurrection from the dead. We are now focusing our attention on the things that really matter.
This time of year seems to invite us to be more aware of our losses than others. As our Liturgical Year comes to a close at the end of the month, the Scripture readings remind us about the “end times.” Last week’s All Souls’ Day and Veterans’ Day invited us to look back. As the nights get longer and the days shorter, we pull ourselves indoors and we may ponder our losses. Some of us face experiences of grief at this time of year.
Grief is one of the strongest feelings we experience in life. Somewhere, I heard grief described as “love not wanting to let go.” That made a lot of sense to me then and even more now after I experienced the deaths of my parents. Grief can be expressed in many different ways, often with physical, emotional or spiritual reactions. While some speak of grief as a staircase with steps leading up to our goal of resolving it, my experience is that it is more like a roller coaster with a number of ups and downs, highs and lows, and a lot of curves. Some lows are predictable, like the holiday season, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other significant dates. At other times, an unexpected low comes out of nowhere. While time alone heals, there are no schedules. We may experience many slips and spills before our feet are on firm ground again. Often it may be sixteen to eighteen months before we begin to sense that the dips on the roller coaster are less intense.
While we might be most aware of grief when we experience the death of someone we love, grief is the normal reaction to any loss we experience in our lives. Have you ever had a time when you felt that something was not quite right in your life? A closer look may reveal that a change or a loss of one kind or another has happened and you were grieving – without even being aware of it. Besides the death of a loved one, common losses can include a miscarriage or experience of infertility, a separation or divorce, an experience of theft, or the loss of a cherished pet. Losses might lurk in personal or family changes like mid-life, an empty nest, selling the home, retirement, and aging. Other losses might be in times of transition, like graduation, a transfer, or a job/career change. Something familiar is no longer available to us. Sometimes our goals and dreams change when we realize that something we had hoped for or dreamed of is never going to happen. Losses are all around us, and the normal way we deal with them is to grieve. The same dynamics that are present when we grieve a major loss, like a death, are also present when we grieve the more common, everyday losses. The first step in grief, though, is to recognize that we are grieving. Perhaps the most helpful thing we can do is to name our grief for what it is so that we can work through it accordingly. And our faith offers us some good news here – the same Lord who saw us though the losses we experienced in the past will see us through our present ones.
As we mark the seasonal time change to Central Standard Time on Sunday morning, the beauty of autumn is quickly fading. Our Scripture readings turn our focus upon the end times and our ultimate destiny with God. It is time to focus on the truly important things. May we do so as best as we can. As always, may God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy