At this time of year, we visit the tombs of our departed loved ones. We pray for them in remembrance, not only at the start of November but throughout the whole month. Today’s gospel gives us in part the reason for this pious action. Those who have gone before us from this life are alive in the presence of God, for God is not the God of the dead but of the living.

Jesus emphasizes this truth by invoking the name of the patriarchs (fathers) of Israel. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Though they have long been gone, they were dear to God and close to his heart. They were his friends on earth and so remain his beloved ones in heaven.

Abraham was put to the test by the Lord many times. The Lord asked him to leave his land and go where God had planned for him a new life. Abraham did not understand but he obeyed, becoming thus, our “father in faith.” When God gave him a son, the Lord tested his faith once more, by asking him to sacrifice his son to him on the mountain. Though deeply hurt, Abraham obeyed the Lord. Seeing his faith, the Lord restored to Abraham his son.

Isaac, Abraham’s son, was tested too. He did not resist the will of God and his father’s action of offering him to the Lord. When God gave him back to his father, Isaac became a symbol of renewal, restoration, and resurrection. Jacob, one of Isaac’s sons, experienced his trial when he wrestled with a stranger the whole night. The stranger was in fact, and angel, and gave Jacob his blessing. These three early fathers of Israel remained faithful in the midst of trials.

The first reading recalls the trial of a Jewish family condemned to death because of their faith. One by one, the brothers profess their faith and welcome death rather than disobey the Lord.  The second reading tells us that God gives us encouragement and strength to fight for God in our lives.

Our dear departed are finally at rest. But we still continue to fight one, to struggle, to endure. Let us ask the Lord for the grace of encouragement so that we will be filled with strength and determination to walk this earth with him as center of our hearts. One day, may we see the living God in heaven and meet our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob there.