The feasts of All Saints and All Souls were last week. In recent years I have reflected on that wonderful phrase of Pope Francis – “the saints next door.”
This year my mind walks in a different direction. Death and our “unfinished business.” I took this path as a result of a 2002 Ron Rolheiser reflection that appeared in my inbox this morning. Privileged Communication within the Communion of Saints He writes…
Accidents, unfortunate circumstance, and the complexity of human relationships conspire so that often people die in less-than-ideal situations – angry, compromised, unforgiving, bitter, immature, unreconciled…
Sometimes too the very cause of death speaks of lack of peace: drunkenness, an overdose of drugs, depression, recklessness, suicide.
Death often catches people before they have had time to do and say the things that should have been done and said. Invariably there is some unfinished business.
Many of us have had persons close to us die with whom we had unfinished business, a hurt that was never reconciled, an injustice that was never rectified, a bitterness that never softened.
The pain of this can linger for a long time. We are left saying: “If only there was another chance!”
The communion of saints as “privileged communication”
Well, there is another chance. One of our wonderful, albeit neglected, Christian doctrines is our belief in the communion of the saints.
He points out that the communion of saints is a doctrine that’s enshrined in the creed itself and it asks us to believe that we are still in vital communication with those who have died.
To believe in the communion of saints is to believe that we can still tend to unfinished business in our relationships, even after death.
Simply put, we can still talk to those who have died and we can, even now, say the words of love, forgiveness, gratitude, and regret that ideally we should have spoken earlier. Indeed, inside the communion of saints the reconciliation that always eluded us while that person was alive can now more easily take place.
This can be an immense consolation to us. What we can’t bring to wholeness in this life can, if we are attentive to the communion of saints, be completed afterwards. We still have communication, privileged communication, with our loved ones after death.
Among the marvels of that lies the fact that we still have a chance to fix the things, after death, that we were powerless to mend before death took a loved one away.
Our unfinished business with Jesus
Taking his thought further, I realized another form of unfinished business many face is honoring a mother’s or a father’s “last words.” “Look after your brother,” “Take care of your mother!”
I have often spoken at funerals of keeping alive the memory of another by living some aspect of that person’s life… kindness, courage, patience…
As I think of this, I think of Jesus saying to his mother “take care of your son”… and to John “take care of your mother”. This is perhaps the most dramatic awareness of the communion of saints.
Were not these last words simply spelling out what he said the night before he died?
Jesus said to disciples … and us…
Do you understand what I have done? If I. your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, then wash one another’s feet. Do this in memory of me.
Do this in memory of me!
- What is my understanding of the communion of saints?
- Am I conscious of what Jesus’ last words asks me?
- Do I set limits on whose feet I will wash?
Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk