Wednesday, November 2, 2011

These Unsearchable Benefits

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[Collect for All Faithful Departed]

Christians grieve. We are human. Yet, we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope,” as St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians. Rather, we grieve as those with hope, with an assurance of Life’s final victory in the Resurrection, available now to us by faith and communion in God. This is one of the most obvious benefits we have been given in Christ.

Another is, however, less evident: it is the way God embraces the ambiguity and pain of our life in love and mercy. From the moment of Christ’s birth in a manger because there wasn’t room or time, to the moment that his body was laid in a borrowed tomb, Christ’s earthly life was filled with the less-than-perfect of this world. The One who knew no sin embraced and redeemed the broken, partial, and flawed. That embrace, overcoming all our unworthiness in the power of the Resurrection, is a benefit reaching into the heart of many who grieve with hope, but with pain.

For many who mourn, there are a thousand unanswered questions: “what if…,” “why…,” “how could I have…,” “if only…” and so on. Like battery acid corroding delicate wiring, these questions often burn into our souls in not only unproductive but utterly destructive ways. Being able to let these questions go is a necessary process for many who mourn… but how?

When we come to All Souls’ Day each year, we bring not only the assurance and peace of a “reasonable and holy hope” (as the Prayer Book puts it) to our grief: we also bring the unsearchable benefits of knowing a God who walks with us in the incompletion of life and death. When we have no answers, no way of making sense of loss, of lives not lived—or lived unwisely—we know that in Christ these, the souls we bear in our hearts, will be manifested as God’s children in glorious completion when the story is finally told in full. God, who knows our limitations, also searches out our deepest desires—the desire to love and be loved. Learning to live from this kind of hope, this kind of faith, we can commend what is impossible for us to the God for whom all things are indeed possible.

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord.

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