During the fifth century Pope Leo the Great played a pivotal role in the history of the Church: he persuaded the Emperor Valentinian to recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. He was also instrumental in formulating the doctrine of Our Lord’s Incarnation. He even persuaded Attila the Hun to turn away his invasion force from the gates of Rome. Pope Leo died in 461 leaving many letters and writings of great historical value. We honour Pope Saint Leo the Great as a Doctor of the Church and we ask his continued intercession and protection.
The passage we heard in the first reading is sometimes read during a Funeral Mass. Its purpose is to give consolation and hope to the bereaved by reminding them that death is not the end of life but rather the beginning of life with God.
Each year during November we make time to remember and pray for our dead. We may visit the graves of our loved ones and on Sunday we remembered those members of the armed services who died to defend the life and liberty of this nation. We have all lost someone we love and this passage of scripture is for us at this moment. But today, let’s try to hear this passage, not as applying to those who have already died, but to us who still face our own death some day in the future. Death is certain, it’s the one thing we can be absolutely sure of in this life; but the time, the place and the circumstances are unknown. We can’t be sure how we will approach the moment of our death because it will be a unique experience. And, of course, it is still in the future for us.
As we approach the end of yet another liturgical year the readings at Mass focus on death and the end times. And so today is as good a day as any to give some thought to our impending death. This Mass today is an occasion for us to renew our faith that God’s love for us is so great and that death isn’t the end but the beginning. For those without faith, death is to be feared. But through faith we have the hope and the promise of immortality and we should approach death with complete trust in the goodness and mercy of God.