As we grieve the dead, we can remember how they inspired our lives

The word triduum is often used at the end of the Lenten season to refer to the period of three days that begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and culminates on Easter Sunday. The liturgical calendar includes another triduum that begins today, although it is less commonly referred to in this manner.

‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ (Mk 10:34)

Liturgical day

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings

Dt 6:2-6; Ps 18; Heb 7:23-28; Mk 12:28-34

Prayer

What do you do to commemorate the dead?

How do you show your love of God and neighbor?

How can praying for and with the dead enrich your spiritual life?

The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on Nov. 1 and in conjunction with All Hallows’ Eve (Oct. 31) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) forms another triduum. For a host of reasons, All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) has largely become a secular holiday, but its historical connection to All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day is significant. This sacred triduum remembers the dead, including saints, martyrs and finally all those who have died.

Today’s Gospel is especially instructive when read in light of this time of prayer and remembrance of the dead. The reading comes near the end of Jesus’ ministry in Mark, after he has entered Jerusalem (on Palm Sunday) and before the Last Supper. Jesus’ death is imminent in the Gospel narrative, and his final days are spent teaching on topics such as his forthcoming death and resurrection.

In one of his conversations with the scribes, Jesus is asked which commandment is first, and he gives a three-part answer drawing from Dt 6:4-5 and Lv 19:18. From Deuteronomy, Jesus quotes the Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel), the Jewish prayer that expresses communal faith in God and the oneness of God. He then expresses the need to love God with one’s whole self. From Leviticus, Jesus stresses the importance of loving one’s neighbor.

At different points in Matthew and Luke, Jesus also proclaims the importance of these laws. In Matthew, Jesus affirms, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:4). In Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, insisting that a neighbor shows mercy to a person in need. In Mark, the conversation ends with a realization that by following these commandments a person is near the kingdom of God, a conclusion that has an eschatological tone.

As we remember those who have died, we can reflect on how their lives and sacrifices influence and inspire our lives. We can also use this time to assess how we are living. By living out devotion to God and to neighbor, we ultimately draw nearer to God’s kingdom.