November invites us to reflect upon last things Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

November invites us to reflect upon last things.

It especially invited Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, to do so. On August 30, 1996, he learned that he would probably die of pancreatic cancer. He prayed that God would give him strength to complete his final book The Gift of Peace. God did. Cardinal Bernardin finished the book on All Saints Day, on November 1, 1996. He died 13 days later.

In his final book, he shared his cross of suffering, "unofficial chaplaincy" to cancer patients, and hope of eternal life. He faced his death with faith. He wrote, "As I write these final words, my heart is filled with joy. I am at peace. It is the first day of November and fall is giving way to winter. Soon trees will lose the vibrant color of their leaves and snow will cover the ground. The earth will shut down. People will race to and from their destinations bundled up for warmth. Chicago winters are harsh. It is a time of dying.

"But we know that spring will soon come with its new life and wonder. It is quite clear that I shall not be alive in the spring. But I will soon experience life in a different way. I don't know what to expect in the afterlife. I do know that just as God called me to serve him to the best of my ability throughout my life on earth, God is now calling me home."

All Saints Day

November's fallen leaves, dead flowers, and harvested fields remind us that like Cardinal Bernardin, we will die. During November, the Church stresses that earth is our temporary home. By using our time, talent, and treasure to know, love, and serve God, we pray that God gifts us with a heavenly home.

We begin November by honoring the saints on All Saints Day. After a thorough investigation, the Church declares that canonized saints are in heaven because of their holiness. We also honor uncanonized saints on this feast day.

Both canonized and uncanonized saints inspire us to imitate their Christ-like lives of holiness. In no. 2013 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is stated, "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness."

November offers us graced opportunities to reflect upon our membership in the Communion of Saints. In no. 962 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in Heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always (attentive) to our prayers."

As members of the Communion of Saints, we share a single "mystical body" with Christ as head. We pray for, love, and support each other on earth. We ask those in heaven to intercede for us. We pray that those in purgatory be purified of their sins and enter heaven.

All Souls Day

On November 2, we celebrate All Souls Day. In no. 1030 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."

Like the unborn, the poor souls in purgatory cannot help themselves. We help them by praying that they will be purified of their sins and join the saints in heaven. All Souls Day is a graced time to remember and pray for deceased family members, cherished friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We can also visit the cemeteries where loved ones are buried.

The last judgment

The Church year ends in November with the feast of Christ the King. This feast invites us to accept the reign of Christ over every aspect of our life and to use our gifts to help to make God's kingdom more fully present. Like Cardinal Bernardin, at the last judgment, Christ will ask us to give an accounting of the stewardship of our gifts.

The last judgment motivates us to use our remaining time wisely. Each day is God's gift to us. What we do with each day is our gift to God. Let us pray for grace to use God's gifts of time, talents, and treasure in a Christ-like way. Then at the Last Judgment when we face Christ the King, we can be confident that he will recognize us for feeding him when he was hungry, giving him drink when he was thirsty, and living a Christ-like life. As a result, we pray that Jesus invites us to enjoy the eternal happiness of heaven. Alleluia! Amen.

Fr. Don Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.