Homily for the Feast of All Souls
Sunday 30 October 2022
the task is ended
go in pieces
our concluding faith
is being rear-ended
certainty’s being amended
and something’s getting mended
that we didn’t know
and are traveling to a place
with delusion as a fusion of
loss, and hope, and pain and beauty.
the task is ended
go in pieces
to see and feel
This is an intriguing Benediction written by Pádraig Ò Tuama. I thought of it as we approached All Souls as a significant grief can leave us all in pieces and wondering how we could ever gather them up again and reclaim our old life.
It is important of course to acknowledge the pieces…the sense of being scattered and the ache of the relationships which were so intimate and familiar no longer being a part of the fabric of our days. We are held by our relationships of love, so it is no wonder we can feel we are unravelling at the death of a loved one.
But I also feel this is an immensely hopeful Benediction. In the travelling to a new place with new formed patterns, there is no imperative to pretend that we are gathered into one confident, “I have all this together” whole. It is okay to feel like we are unravelling at times and scattered into pieces at others. But maybe, going in pieces is the way we heal and help others to heal.
The short reading from Matthew’s Gospel we have heard tonight offers an understanding of the scattering of our lives. Through it we hear the power of an incarnational God…a God who knows the aches of physical bodies, the anxiety of tired minds and the aching heaviness of grief and loss. Jesus says, “Come to me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’
David Whyte in a poem called Sweet Darkness writes, “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also.” I have always liked this as it reflects the reality that the way we see the world creates how we experience it, and sometimes our exhaustion is projected outward to everything else.
Grief is tiring. I am sure everyone gathered here knows this. Jesus knows this and speaks to the tiredness that can overcome our souls. Learn from my way, says Jesus, because I am gentle and humble of heart…not demanding and pushing or expecting you to be over this, but simply offering rest. And to this place of rest where we sometimes go in pieces, we might just discover that our grief can be a place of generativity. From these pieces, in a fusion of loss, and hope, and pain and beauty can grow a new way of being in the world that returns you to a place where you can see and feel and love.
To have faith is to know that all love comes from God. While our commemoration of All Souls is collective, Divine remembrance is about holding each soul in life and in the particularity of their uniqueness. The flame of life in our beloved is in reality never extinguished because, with God, there is only the eternal present.
This is what our reading from Romans is telling us;
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There really is no fragmentation…no separation. Our God is the one who holds and sustains life and love and even holds all the pieces of us. This deep knowing may not lessen the pain and longing, but it is a remembering of the beloved while you are at the same time called to the work of loving yourself and the world back to life.
Life finds a way. The risen Christ invites you to the kind of generative rest where you may remember and love again your life and the goodness of the world. To do so is not to forget the beloved but to live in joyful honouring of their memory and their life held in God. Derek Walcott writes in his poem “Love after love;”
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life…
Maybe you may sense the call to love again the stranger who was yourself, before the time when grief weighed heavy on your soul. So may you lay down the burden of your grief safely with the God who is never tired or anxious or heavy laden. And as you remember and smile, may you receive back your heart and the life that is calling to you in all its sorrows and joys. And may you know that however you are feeling is always enough, because you can go in pieces, to see and feel your world.