An ancient liturgical verse paraphrases the words of Job (7:16): Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. The verse puts it even more bluntly: "Spare me, Lord, for my days are nothing." Job is filled with good news. "Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.” (7:21) But this stark admission of our weakness, of the fragility of our lives, of the nearness of death, and of the end that depends upon the Lord and His forgiveness is not depressing. It is somber and it is certainly disheartening to those who do not know the Lord or His mercy but to the Christian it is not maudlin but truth. And with the truth of death comes also the truth of life. Again, from Job: "I believe that my Redeemer lives, and that on the last day I shall rise from the earth, And in my flesh I shall see God, my Savior. It will not be some other, but I myself who shall see Him; my own eyes shall look upon Him. And in my flesh I shall see God, my Savior."
It might seem sad, melancholy, and even a bit pathetic that the Church gathers on All Saints' to recall those who died in the faith. And there are tears as the names are spoken and the bell rings out into the silence that follows the mention. But tears are not all we have. We also have the holy joy and promise of the blest reunion with those who have gone before, the saints whose lives are not over but waiting with us for the final day that has no night. We remember them not as a people ignorant of hope but as the confident who know that because Christ lives, all who die in Christ live and we who live in Christ now will live forevermore.
From Lazarus and his stinking body to the children who died before the fullness of this earthly life had been known whom Jesus raised to the Savior whose tomb was but a temporary home, the end is not death. That is why this life cannot be our best life nor our only one. In fact it is the briefest prelude to what eye does not yet see and mind cannot imagine but the heart trusts. Your best life is not now. It is to come. Death has become a tool and pawn in the hand of God who turns the dead in into a new beginning.
That is the message of All Saints' -- the dead in Christ live and we live with them and this life will never be diminished by sorrow or stolen by death or corrupted by affliction and illness. No, we are more than conquerors in Christ our Lord. We speak the names of those who died not to cling to what memory is left of them but because God's speaking is life. That is what happened to the thief who asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom. In remembering the dying thief, the man becomes the living saint -- all by the grace and mercy of God. But what happened on that hill of crosses so long ago, is not an anomaly but the pattern of our own lives, for now hidden in Christ, but soon to be revealed when we shall see Him and the saints who have gone before face to face.