Yesterday many parishes offered Solemn Masses for the Dead, with appropriate music. Mozart’s Requiem was at St. Dominic’s, Faure’s Requiem at St. Ignatius, the Duarte Lobos Requiem at the Cathedral, and here at Star we offered a Solemn High Gregorian Requiem, as did the Latin Mass Society at Cristo Rey Monastery later in the day. These Requiems have become popular in San Francisco, and although some come more for the music than for the Mass, the human heart longs to remember the dead. They also remind us that we will soon join them, with the hope that there is a place for us on the other side of the grave. November 2 is the Day of the Dead, and November is the Month of the Dead, but November begins with All Saints, those who are most fully alive. Those in heaven, and indeed those in purgatory, are the living, and we are ghosts compared to them. This earthly live must give way at last to purgatory, which itself must give way to the perfect peace and joy of heaven.
It is to perfect peace and joy that God calls each of us. The frustrations of this world drain our peace, and lasting joy evades us, but St. Paul writes in the Epistle that “we always pray for you … brethren, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed …” Now, the essential purpose of the news and entertainment media, to which every one of us turns impulsively several dozen times a day, is precisely that: to alarm us, to shake our minds, to keep us dependent on the news cycle. You can’t sell airtime on newscasts that assure us that all is peaceful and orderly. Mass media has made us drama addicts, adrenaline junkies of disaster, catastrophe, violence, and social collapse. My advice to you, and St. Paul’s advice, is simply not to listen and not to look. Seek peace in Christ; cultivate stillness of spirit through a modest life of regular prayer and fidelity to the simple Christian duties. If anything disturbs your serenity, it is almost certainly not of God, and so is not healthy. Avoid it. If you are stressed and depressed, you know what to do: stop listening to talk radio. Turn off TV news. Stop reading internet gossip.
“Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a drop of morning dew” the Book of Wisdom counsels us. He holds the whole world in his beneficent and capacious hands. “You love all things that are, O Lord and lover of souls, and your imperishable spirit is in all things.” The simple fact is that God loves everything that he has made or he wouldn’t have made it. He loves everything that is or He wouldn’t sustain it in being. Everything that is, is good. We have trouble believing this when our minds are alarmed by chaos and evil. Certainly there is plenty of chaos and evil in this old world, but it is as nothing compared to the unsurpassing glory of God’s grace. In the words of the poet, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” which gleams like a sun through a clear and cloudless sky. God’s grace is infinitely greater. We live under friendly skies. Peace and the joy borne of peace is ours, if we seek it and lay hold of it.
Zaccheus the short tax collector was seized by joy. He was the chief tax collector, the richest and most powerful government agent in the region. He scrambles up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, but Jesus calls him down: “I’m coming to your house for dinner tonight.” Zaccheus comes down quickly and receives him with joy, despite his many years of filthy living. The townspeople, who have suffered from his mendacity, mock his change of heart, but the short man stands his ground: “I give half my possessions to the poor, and I give fourfold restitution for those whom I have robbed.” The grace of God, the love of Christ, sweeps away his fears and fills him with an unshakeable joy. The Lord declares to the crowd that today “Salvation” has come to this house. In Latin the word “salvation” (salus) simply means health. Zaccheus the sick man has become whole and strong again, regaining his peace and joy, by trading in his securities for Jesus Christ.
Believe me that peace and joy are ours for the taking, both in this world and in the next. Be faithful to your prayers and life’s simple duties, and you will have all the joy this life affords. You will become holy, and at the end of your pilgrimage will enter into the perfect joy of your master.