Always as we enter the final month of the liturgical year, the Church calls us to remember our loved ones who have gone before us. The Church also calls us to reflect on the last things in our lives and our own final end.
These are serious considerations, but they are not meant to make us sad. The Church begins November celebrating All Saints and All Souls to remind us that our lives belong to God, who is a God of the living, not of the dead.
This year the archdiocese marked All Souls Day with a traditional Día de Los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) vigil at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.
More than 1,000 people turned out for a beautiful celebration of our faith in the Resurrection. Catholic school children and their families helped to create altars for loved ones; there was a candlelight procession leading to a solemn Mass.
These days of remembrance in November remind us that baptism is the great beginning that opens this life to the next life, the life of the world to come.
Baptism joins us to the family of God here on earth and unites us with the communion of saints in heaven.
That is why we decorate the Día de los Muertos altars with pictures and items that remind us of our loved ones. Because we know that our loved ones remain near to us always. The spiritual bonds created by baptism cannot be broken, even by death.
As Catholics, our whole lives are a journey of hope, a path that we know will lead us to one day meet the God of life face-to-face.
But our hope for heaven does not guarantee that our lives will be without pain, hardship and sadness.
In his homily for All Saints Day, Pope Francis reminded us that we have brothers and sisters — all over the world and in our own backyards — who are suffering. He spoke of wars and poverty and persecutions and the loneliness of people who are forgotten and excluded.
The troubles of the world — all our personal sufferings and the sufferings of others — are a call of duty. They call us to have courage and compassion and to help one another carry the burdens of life.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a screening of a movie that’s coming out next February. It’s called “Little Boy” and it’s about a boy who wants his father to come back from a war.
The boy talks to his parish priest and the priest gives him a list of things to do that will bring his father back safely. The list is the Church’s traditional works of mercy — feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, burying the dead.
The point is that we make our way to heaven by walking the path of mercy here on earth.
As Pope Francis said: “What must our attitude be, if we want to become part of a people who walk the path towards the Father … in this world of wars, in this world of tribulation? Our attitude … is that of the Beatitudes. Only that path can lead us to the encounter with God.”
And we don’t walk alone.
The Church is a family and in families we help one another. The communion of saints is a communion of love. So in this world, we are always walking in the company of our brothers and sisters in the Church. The saints and angels go with us.
In this month of remembrance, let’s pray harder for one another! And let’s all try to renew our hope for heaven and deepen our faith in the communion of saints.
The celebration of the Eucharist is the privileged moment when the Church in heaven and the Church on earth are united as one family of God and the communion of saints.
Let’s try this month to pray the prayers of the Mass with new attention and devotion. When we do this, we realize that in the Eucharist, our voices join to sing with the angels in heaven; we offer prayers to all the angels and saints. We remember our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep. And we pray to join them as coheirs to eternal life — with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and all the Saints through the ages.
So let us ask Mary, who is the Queen of all the Angels and Saints, to pray for our loved ones and to pray for us, that God’s merciful face may shine upon us and we may all be together forever in heaven with him.
Archbishop Gomez is author of “A Will to Live: Clear Answers on End of Life Issues.”