Reader, be patient; this has a happy ending.
How very appropriate that the end of the liturgical year takes place in November, the end of the calendar year. Our usual weather for most of November is cloudy days. Frankly, the weather and the liturgical year seem well-matched – that is, gloomy.
We start out the month quite happily with All Saints day on the first. But the very next day we’re plunged into All Souls Day. This is not meant to be a day of sadness, but our Spanish-speaking brethren call it the Day of the Dead (Día de los muertos) and that seems to be the major emphasis. When we finally get to the last two Sundays, we are treated to readings from Revelation about the “End Times” with descriptions of unimaginable disasters coming soon to a city near you.
Add to all this the fact that several people I know have passed away this month. (Note the euphemism, in consideration for all those who have a problem with the “d” word).
In our calendar, November has only 30 days, yet it seems to drag on interminably longer. Sometimes I prefer to describe the skies as “pewter” rather than “gray,” as I attempt to inject a positive note of beauty to what might otherwise be merely depressing.
So here we have several ingredients that might drag us down this month: 1) the reminder of dear ones departed — for me, including four people I know who died this month alone; 2) liturgical readings emphasizing disaster, death and judgment; and 3) at least 25 days without sunshine.
But wait! What about the big November holiday, Thanksgiving?
This definitely helps change our perspective – especially if you’re a shopper and jump to take advantage of the many available sales on Black Friday. Alas, even that isn’t enough for someone like me who lacks the shopping gene.
Never mind. For me, the gift of gratitude turns my gloom upside-down, helping me to slowly climb out of that black pit.
But the most effective cure appeared in our Gospel reading the other day. The Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, question Jesus with a hypothetical situation. A woman is married to, and successively widowed by seven brothers. The quiz: “At the resurrection (if there is one, they probably snicker), whose wife will she be?”
Jesus explains that whereas people these days marry, things will be different in the after-life. He says to them,
“The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. [He] is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. (Luke 20: 34-38)
In that stunning revelation, Jesus joins us all together, the living as well as those whom we refer to as dead. Thus in our funeral Masses we celebrate that life is changed, not taken away.
This is the Good News that Christ brings us, that we need not dread a separation from loved ones, much less a separation from a life that has been slowly declining.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:1-6)