Imagine that a good friend of yours is enrolled in a program that requires him to travel to a beautiful and exotic part of the world where he will be unable to get in touch with you for a prolonged period of time. Although you miss the sound of your friend’s voice or the embrace of his hug, you are at peace knowing he is happy while residing in this beautiful place. So your missing him does not imply a lack of communion. Rather your imagining him having fun is, in fact, a source of joy to you. And your knowledge that you will see him again reminds you that any physical distance is temporary, and does not negate in any essential way the communion that results from your friendship. It’s actually the friendship that births your willingness to rank lower in importance your missing him than his happiness, which is gained by his living in this beautiful place.
This description is a drawn out way of describing the internal machinations manifest in our hearts and our minds whenever a loved one is apart from us for a long period of time. And I’d argue that it is also exactly what it’s like to mourn a friend or relative who lived a saintly life and whom you believe now to be with God.
I miss my Mom Marie Bilodeau. But I don’t miss her having to hobble around on a pair of painful legs, breathe oxygen from a tank and go to dialysis three times a week. The pain of not talking to her each day (although sometimes unbearable) does not compare to the peace that comes from knowing she is with God living out joy that “no eye has seen and no ear has heard.”
So our communion with the deceased is actually not that different than that which we share with a friend who is on a prolonged vacation. We may not be able to talk to or see the person we love, but we share communion with them in the joy that is their state while away. In the case of someone who has died in God’s grace, it is due to our access to God and His Saints through prayer that we are actually in closer communion with our deceased friends and relatives than ever before. We can find peace – and even joy – in knowing how happy they are with God. Even if it means not being here with us physically.