The context for the response is Psalm 24, which talks about dwelling on God’s mountain where the view is available. Presumably the psalmist here is thinking of Jerusalem, but Scripture knows other mountains too: Sinai, where Moses talked to God face to face, as one talks to a friend. Also at Sinai, seventy elders saw God and celebrated with a meal. Elijah had a glimpse of sorts near Mount Horeb. The synoptic Gospels talk about seeing deeply on Mount Tabor. In some of these instances, and elsewhere, fear is involved: See God and die. But at least in the case of Moses, the fear is not his but the reaction of those who see him after he has seen God. The responsorial psalm for All Souls day de-literalizes a step further: The "mountain" where we live is wherever God shepherds us, where we agree and rejoice to be shepherded. Seeing is being with. Do we long for it? How do we long for it?
The All Saints psalm response talks about clean hands and pure heart, echoed in the All Saints Gospel. Entrance requirements? No, more likely responses to seeing God. We don’t have to qualify to see God, but it should--it will make a difference in how we live out our relationships with creator and other creatures afterwards.
The first reading for All Souls Day from the Book of Wisdom makes a similar point, though not so clearly in the small snippet we have. As Israel struggled toward a set of possibilities for life after death that were more expansive than some of the early intuitions in the Old Testament, it can be claimed that things are not what they seem in regard to the just who have died: They are in God’s hand. See God and die? Die and see God? The warrant for our belief is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, on which we are privileged to look, in whose hope we are invited to dwell. His way is ours as well. Do we believe this? Do you believe it? How is such belief evidenced? What’s -- not the pre-requisite -- the result of such belief? How does such faith and trust grow stronger, so that we long for what is on offer? It’s perhaps like gardening: We don’t earn the fruits of our labor, but if we don’t put in some work, some patience, some skill, some attention, there are not likely to be fruits. Results are not rewards.
Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. Increase our desire for you.
Barbara Green, O.P.