During the month of November, there is a tradition of remembering the dead and praying for them – particularly during the Eucharist. Our liturgy this Sunday provides an opportunity to reflect upon this practice in the light of the Lord’s coming and the judgement. When Paul writes his earliest letter, to the Thessalonians, he still had an expectancy that Jesus would come again soon. He knew that everything was now different because of the resurrection of Jesus, which was the first fruits of the new creation that God would bring about. So he describes the reasons that the church has to live in hope – even as we pray and mourn for those who have already died. We continue to do the same.
What we come to when we wish to ponder the place where Jesus has gone, and where our beloved dead have gone to – it is not another where, not another place, but another way of being. Heaven is not some place elsewhere, but it is a different way of being – the place where God is and where the will of God is always done. It is important in this month of November that we spend time reflecting on the nature and reality of heaven. Using the beautiful writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, and reflecting on the images that St Paul uses in the second reading today, we can reflect upon purgatory, hell and heaven as part of our hope for ourselves and all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us.
From the Archives (recorded in 2011)