He Will Wipe Every Tear From Their Eyes

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

All Souls’ Day at the cemetery
All Souls’ Day at the cemetery (photo: Mary-Rose Verret)

All Souls’ Day is a reminder to all of us that there is a communion of saints — a bond to be celebrated between those of us who are striving for holiness and those souls who went before us in faith. In many cases those whom we remember on All Souls’ Day are those who passed the faith on to us. They are our ancestors or our mentors — our friends and our family.

For as long as people have lived and died there has been the custom of honoring the dead, celebrating the dead, speaking to the dead and praying for the dead. Last month my dad passed away. Last year, one of my dear friends passed away. Seven years ago, a little baby we were expecting passed away. To be alive is to be confronted by death, but to be Christian is to confront death with the hope of Christ.

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

In the old black and while version of “A Tale of Two Cities,” the main character, Sydney Carton, catches a glimpse of this quote from Christ as he makes his decision to offer his life in the place of the husband of a friend. He knows that this is not the end and that the end of this life is just the beginning of the next. This same verse can comfort us if we have faith in God’s promise of eternal life to those who live and believe in him.

Why then, does death seem so final, so mournful and so life-ending? Perhaps because it is so unnatural. We were not made for death and yet God in his tender mercy reminds us that death is not final and that he loves us. 

Death is particularly difficult to contend with when it is someone young, it is an accident, someone who ends their life, someone who doesn’t believe or someone who has been estranged from their family. Finding someone who has had a similar loss to your experience can be an added comfort.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

The custom of blessing the tombs is particularly popular and well-attended here in south Louisiana. The majority of tombs in the cemetery had a widow or widower, children or grandchildren, friends and family clustered around the tomb during the Rosary and blessing. The Rosary in English and French preceded the blessing of the tombs.

Not that long ago all Catholics gathered to wash the tombs and adorn them with flowers. All Souls’ Day was a picnic or reunion at the tombs. There was such a connection between the living and the dead — stories were told and prayers were said. Perhaps this is a custom that needs to be brought back?

This year for All Souls’ Day, and throughout the octave and month of November, consider visiting a cemetery and even if you do not live near the tombs of anyone you know, then go and pray for someone who has no one to pray for them. You never know — you may be praying at the tomb of an unknown saint or someone who really needs your prayers.