Baptized Into His Death
Sunday Homily for November 2, 2008
All Souls Day, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (31A)
Father Phil Bloom
Bottom line: Even though death seems to wipe out everything, that is not so.
This Sunday, November 2, is All Souls Day - the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. All Souls Day has a particular significance for my family this year. On October 20 a rocket-propelled grenade killed my niece's husband, Major Robert D. Lindenau. Only Bob died in the attack. His body served as a shield for the others in his company.
Bob's death in Afghanistan made significant news locally. Even though I have read the articles and spent time talking with Tonya and other family members, still, it is hard for the reality to sink in. I have woken up in the night thinking, "Bob is gone," and imagining the instant of his death.
Death overshadows everything. It makes all our activities and conflicts seem small, even laughable how seriously we take them.
Our Scripture readings speak about the meaning of death. St. Paul says that when were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were "baptized into his death." My niece's husband had a beautiful faith in Jesus. Like many people formed in an evangelical milieu, Bob could speak openly about his relationship with Jesus. His reception into the Catholic Church by Confirmation and Communion was for him a further step in his walk with the Lord.
Bob could also talk openly about his struggles and need for forgiveness. On his shoulder he has a tattoo that shows a man in a state of exhaustion being held up by the Lord. You can see in the Lord's hands the wound marks of the nails. The man lightly grips a hammer - obviously he has had a role in driving the nails into Jesus' hands. Below the two figures is the single word, "forgiven."
Bob knew that at every moment we stand under the Divine Mercy. Although Bob made plans to return to civilian life with his beautiful wife and children, he was also realistic about the possibility of death.
At Holy Family Parish, we have had Bob's picture on our Military Prayer Board for five years. I have prayed every day for Bob and other soldiers that God would protect them from both physical and spiritual harm. His death stunned me. But I am also aware that October 20 was not the first time Bob died. In his love for Tonya and the children, he died to himself. In answering the call to serve his country, he died to himself. In his beautiful love for children and families in Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan, he died to himself. This death to self flowed from his baptism. By baptism into Christ Jesus, he was baptized into his death.
In the Gospel from John, chapter six, Jesus tells us that he himself came not to do his own will, but the will of the Father. And he assures us that if we are united with him, he will give us what we most want: forgiveness, healing and peace. And even though death seems to wipe out everything, that is not so. Jesus says: "This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it up on the last day."