AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Christion Murphy
While I do not come from a church tradition that focused on All Saints’ Day or All Souls’ Day, I’m so glad The Parish takes time to remember that we are a part of the holy catholic church and the communion of saints. It rekindles my faith to know that I am one part of a story that includes past, present, and future followers of Christ, who represent every people and every century in the life of the Church. It reassures me to know that my inheritance even includes the faithful testimonies of those who waited for the promise of Jesus, like Abraham, who walked in obedience “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
It is a gift to sit a moment with the past, an antidote to the anxiety about the future and the urgency of the present. Looking back anchors us. So many men and women, most unnamed to use, have walked with Jesus. These saints suffered barren places of doubt, struggled to find meaning in the mundane, and cried out in desperation. But they also knew more of Jesus in that suffering. They drew from the wellspring of his grace, his mercy, and his love, and in that reliance on him they found strength and joy. Their lives bear witness that the hope of Christ never depends on our circumstances, resources, capacity, or our perfection. Our hope depends on Jesus because all the work was accomplished by Christ on the cross. Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
And so, on Sunday we extinguished one candle to symbolize the loss and grief that can be an almost unbearable part of living. But Jordan reminded us that Jesus is present in the pain. It was his voice lamenting on the cross, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” Yet two candles remained lit, one to represent the presence of God and the other to represent the community of saints. Those two candles assure us that when we are groping in darkness, we always have the light of Christ’s love and the light of the Church’s witness to illumine a path out of the shadows. For Jesus also said from the cross, “It is finished.” The faithful know suffering and the faithful know triumph. That is the story of the saints.
Eugene Peterson has a unique translation of Hebrews 12:3:
“When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility [Jesus] plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
Amen! We need to keep repeating those stories of the faithful. We need to lean hard into them. In this moment you may not feel confident in what you hope for, but let the lives of the saints be your assurance that all will be well, that because of Jesus your Act 5 is a victorious ending. For one day we, too, will be lifted “to triumph,” as Malcolm Guite writes*, “where all the saints are known and named;/ The gathered glories of his wounded love.”
*from “The Gathered Glories,” Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite