The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
3:1–9. These very poetic lines convey very well the notion of the reward that awaits the just in the after-life, but they are not very specific about it. The author uses expressions that correspond to the time in history and Revelation in which he lives, but they do enable us to get an idea of the state of the blessed: “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them” (v. 1); the righteous dead are “at peace” (v. 3), that is, in the sphere proper to God; they can be sure of immortality, athanasía (v. 4). They will abide in the Kingdom of God forever and share in God’s power to judge and rule (v. 8; cf. Mt 19:28)—a pointer to their power of intercession. One could say that the most encouraging line of all is, “the faithful will abide with him in love” (v. 9). Still to come is the explicit New Testament revelation which tells us that the blessed “shall see God as he is” (1 Jn 3:2), not as in a (dull) mirror but “face to face”; they will know him as he knows them (cf. 1 Cor 13:12) and they will be with Christ forever in heaven (cf. 1 Thess 4:17).
I was reflecting with a friend some time ago on the story of Mary and Martha. We spent the better part of a couple hours reflecting on the teachings of this story and how we had been encountering the virtuous behavior of these two women in many of the situations we had dealt with in parish life.
As I drove home from our meeting, I couldn’t get the thought of my Martha out of my mind. Martha was the name of my mother who I had lost a few months earlier. It was amazing to me how so many aspects of the biblical Martha were aspects of my mother Martha. Pulling into my driveway, I suddenly felt her presence with me.
In celebrating All Souls Day, the time when we remember the faithful departed, this story floated back into my consciousness as I recalled the lines from the Apostles Creed, “the communion of saints” and the beautiful words of Sister Joyce Rupp.
Sister Joyce said: “I believe our loved ones’ presence is near to us and that their love never ceases. If the faithful departed had the ability to come back and speak to us, I believe that they would want most of all to assure us of their immense peace and their desire for our happiness.” Blessings to all as we remember our loved ones.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.