This time of the year, the end of the calendar year, with the deluge of Christmas cards that fill my mailbox, I am delighted to receive wonderful, nostalgic, printed family newsletters tucked inside. These are more meaningful than cards simply signed “John or Mary” without personal notes—for which they paid 42 cents postage plus the high price of some of those gorgeous Christmas cards. (The problem is compounded because I know several Johns and Marys and I have to check the postmark to see the location from which it was mailed!)
Invariably, in the family letters I will read, “I LOST (a number of friends and relatives) this year” and they are fondly recalled by name. The older one becomes the more this is repeated in the letters. A significant number of my close friends, too, have departed this life this year.
From the Christian perspective, if we truly believe the promises of Jesus Christ which are recorded in Scripture, combined with our declaration of “I believe in the Communion of Saints” from the Apostles’ Creed, we do NOT LOSE our loved ones and friends who are in the Faith when they depart this mortal, earthly life. God created us with immortal spirits (or souls) which never die. Jesus’ words could not be clearer, “He who believes in Me shall live even if He dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me, shall never die.” (John 11:25)
From the time of the Apostles through the early Church age and in the writings of the Early Church Fathers, and throughout the centuries of the Christian Church, it was taught and believed that the “Communion of Saints” consists of unbroken relationships between those still living and those who departed this life to live eternally in the presence of God. “Saints” is the term given to all who are in Christ, as the word is used in the New Testament.
In the Catholic faith passed on through the ages from the time of Christ, it is taught and believed that our loved ones in Christ who are now in His presence are aware of our lives on earth. They can pray for us and we can ask for their prayers. They cannot DO anything for us because they are not Divine, but they can INTERCEDE for us to Jesus Christ, the One Mediator with God the Father. There is nothing in Scripture or in the early Church teachings to the contrary. This is NOT an attempt to communicate with the dead for the purposes of knowing the future, as the Scriptures clearly teach against.
There are many mysteries, things difficult to understand in the Christian faith. As finite beings we can’t expect to fully know the Infinite during our lifetimes on earth. We will know as we are known, the Scriptures say, when we come into the Presence of God ourselves. Time will give way to Eternity; God will reveal Himself fully to us, and we shall see His grand, sovereign plan unfold. Until faith becomes sight, we trust in God.
Let us accept as much as Jesus Christ has seen fit to reveal to us. The rest He keeps as a wonderful surprise for us in the future. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s House are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14: 1-6)
As difficult as separation is when loved ones or friends depart this earthly life, or how keenly we miss them because our emotions are involved, we do not really LOSE them! Nor do we LOSE CONTACT with them because of the availability of their intercession for us. This is good news! We would do well to meditate on the reality of their being ALIVE AND WELL in the presence of God and visualize them as so.
The veil between time and eternity may be thinner than we realize!