Apocalypse 7.2-4, 9-14; Psalm 23
1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12
In antiquity today's feast honoured only martyrs. The cult of saints was given a boost when the Church took over the pantheon in Rome, under Boniface IV, transferring twenty-eight wagon loads of saintly relics there and dedicating the new church to the Mother of God and all the Holy Martyrs with a festival in Eastertide. When it became a place of pilgrimage, the feast was transferred to November 1st when food and accommodation were more plentiful in the holy city. The celebration was then extended to all saints. The Apocalypse reading celebrates something of this history: the white robed army of saints worshipping the Lamb are martyrs persecuted under Roman emperors. This reading and the Christianising of the pantheon bear testimony to the fact that while 'earth's proud empires pass away', the Kingdom of God is eternal and will ultimately prevail, rewarding its faithful subjects. Both the other readings express the fact that the saints who embrace God's kingdom here on earth will never be fully at home and the authentic values they pursue will always conflict with those of the world, often to their cost; how- ever, their reward will be great in heaven.
Three readings for today's Mass may be taken from Masses for the Dead, Lectionary vol. III. The following selection is given in vol. I.
Isaiah 25.6-9; Psalm 26'
Romans 5.5-11; Matthew 11.25-30
If the celebrant wishes to avail of it, there is a wide choice of readings for the commemoration of the faithful departed and he may feel it is a good occasion to give some of the texts less popular for funerals some refreshing exposure. However, this selection is beautiful because it is so full of hope. Isaiah paints a joyful and consoling picture of a caring God who not only prepares a banquet of rich food to console those who mourn, but also wipes away the tears from their cheek. This very intimate God here abundantly fulfils one of the 'beatitudes' of yesterday's gospel. Hope also radiates from the Romans reading where Paul reminds us that Christ has redeemed us from our sins and there is nothing that stands between us and God: we are reconciled and may surely count on being saved by the life of his Son. The Gospel passage gives great comfort and consolation to all who are burdened by grief and loss and Jesus' invitation to come and find rest in him can give great solace to those coming to terms with bereavement.Login for more...