The Day of the Dead is a central celebration of our Mexican brothers and sisters that occurred at the beginning of this month (10/31-11/02). This multi-day celebration involves gathering with friends and family to remember their deceased relatives and celebrate their lives, often times in the graveyards where they are buried. Their practice echoes the early Christian practice of celebrating Mass in the catacombs with those heroic martyrs whose witness and life inspired the early community and whose memories they wished to keep alive.
This practice of communing with the dead is evidence of the Christian belief about the truth of what becomes of us after we die. Though we move on past our physical life and existence on earth, in faith we believe that we are still alive. The readings for today echo that hope and belief in the eternal life that waits for us after death. We believe that rather than come to an end, we live forever in God.
In the first reading from Maccabees this intense belief and trust in God who offers life after death, is embodied by the seven brothers and mother who are willing to endure gruesome torture and death to remain faithful to God. It is clear from their martyrdom that their belief in this living God does not mean an escape from cruel torture and death, but means something greater. One of the brothers says, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever” (Mc. 7:9).
The belief in life after death is reflected in Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees who wish to trap him, since they believe there is no scriptural evidence for life after death. Jesus’ reply uses scripture to catch them in their own trap. He says, “That the dead will rise, even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out 'Lord, ' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk. 20: 37 - 38).
It is his trust and hope that God is a God of the living that enables Jesus to embrace the cross with the hope of there is life after death. He believes that the power of God’s life giving love transcends what we know here on earth and extends eternally. It binds us with those who have died and gone before us, because they are not dead. They live eternally with God in a relationship they built with God while here on earth.
And so we can ask ourselves, In what ways do we participate with the life giving love of God? In what ways do we place our trust in God’s life giving power above all else? In what ways do we need to let go of things in this life, so that in the next we may be truly alive?