Communion Of Saints—Feast Of All Souls—November 2, 2014
This weekend we celebrate the feast of all saints, and the feast of all souls. We will have an opportunity to remember members of our family and friends who have gone before us and are now in the hands of God.
As I looked through our parish death record I found that in the past year over 30 people from this parish gave up their souls in death.
Their ages ranged from 50 years to 99 years. Some were married—some were single. Some were blessed with children and grandchildren—others were blessed in different ways. They came from different backgrounds—they pursued different vocations—they had different personalities.
Some had a deep faith and awareness of God and eternity. Others never quite understood the value of spiritual things. The salvation of their souls seemed to be the farthest thing from their minds. They seemed preoccupied with material and earthly pursuits. They did not have time for worship and for developing a serious relationship with God.
As they stand before God, I’m sure that some of these souls are surprised to find out for the first time that God should have been the most important reality in their lives, and he wasn’t. They regret now all the time they wasted on material concerns that no longer matter because they no longer have a body.
Sadly, some of them didn’t realize how much they needed a community of faith to encourage them. So they avoided any involvement with the church. Now they know what they missed and how important the church is.
On the other hand some were very much involved with the church. You saw them at every event. Some went to daily mass. They couldn’t do enough for their parish. I remember one person who said to me: God has been so good to my family that I would be embarrassed not to give something back to him.
There is only one question that is important to the souls who stand before God. Will I go to heaven, to hell or to Purgatory?
The answer to that question depends on the choices they made during their lives here on earth. God will be the judge.
We read in the book of wisdom: “the souls of the just are in the hands of God.” The souls of our deceased family members and friends are in the hands of God. We trust God to be a just and merciful judge.
How about us who remain behind? This is what one man wrote when his wife died: “whenever anybody whom we love dies, we discover that although death is commonplace it is terribly original. We may have thought about it all our lives, but if it comes close to us, it is quite a new, strange thing to us, for which we are entirely unprepared. It may, perhaps, not be the bare loss so much as the strength of the bond which is broken that is the surprise, and, in a way, we are debtors to death for revealing something in us which ordinary life disguises.”
What are our questions?
When someone you love dies you want to know: where is he? Where is she? Where is Jim? Where is Joseph? Where is Mary? Where is Anne? You used to know where these people were every day of their lives. You were texting them, you were calling them on the telephone. Why wouldn’t you want to know where they are now?
We have been in a loving relationship with these souls. We spend our lives building relationships with spouses—with parents—with children—with brothers and sisters—with grandparents—aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Of course we care about where they are now.
We don’t want these relationships to end. That’s why we feel sad when someone is separated from us. The strength of the bond which is broken is what causes the pain. We want so much for the relationship to continue.
Sometimes the bereaved may even be obsessed with knowing where is she? Where is he? They try to contact the dead through spiritualists and mediums and channeling. They waste time and money on people who can’t help them.
In faith we who remain behind can help the souls in Purgatory. We should know as Christians that we can still continue our relationship with our loved one. You can talk to them. You can reach out to them in faith, love and prayer. They can reach out to you in love and prayer.
Why do we offer a funeral mass for our loved one? Why do we continue to offer masses for them? We continue to reach out to them in faith and in prayer because we believe that if they are in Purgatory we can talk to them. We can help them in their journey in Purgatory as we helped them in their journey on Earth.
I heard of a priest who was stopped by a woman on her way out of mass. She had requested a mass for her deceased father and the mass had just been offered. She was very upset with the priest’s homily. She said: “What right do you have to say that my father is in Purgatory?”
The priest said to her: “You are the one that told me he was in Purgatory.” She looked puzzled. Then she asked him: “When did I say that?” He said: “Do you remember that you requested a mass for him? If your father is in heaven, he doesn’t need a mass; and if he’s in Hell, all the masses in the world won’t do him any good. So if you requested a mass for him, it can only mean that you believe his soul may be in Purgatory.”
November is the month that we especially remember the souls in Purgatory. The catechism of the Catholic Church says that Purgatory is the final purification of the saved. In Purgatory the saved can reach that perfection we need to enter the joy of heaven.
If you are confused about the existence of Purgatory you should know that Christians have prayed for their dead in Purgatory from as far back as the first century. If you go online you can find all the scriptural proofs that Purgatory really does exist. We have known this for more than 2000 years.
Some people have a problem with Purgatory. They think that we either go to heaven or to hell. They do not understand the necessity of Purgatory. They forget that Jesus said that only those who are perfect will enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet most people would agree that most of us are not perfect when we die. Yet we are not bad enough to go to hell.
Most of us have thoughts and sins that would shame the devil
If we are fortunate enough to go to Purgatory we will see our sins as they are in the sight of God because we will see our sins in contrast to God’s holiness and goodness. We will recognize that we are not perfect and we will thank God for his merciful gift of Purgatory.
Some protestants and born again Christians have a problem with Purgatory. They do not understand our teaching about salvation. When I give instructions to protestants and born again Christians in the RCIA program, sometimes they ask the question: do Catholics believe that their suffering in Purgatory makes up for their sins? My answer is definitely not.
Catholics believe with St. Paul that Jesus Christ is the only one who can take away our sins. We believe that he alone shed his blood to save us. We believe with St. Paul that there is no salvation except in the name of our lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in Purgatory, not because we think there is something lacking in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is nothing lacking in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We believe in Purgatory not only because the word of God in the bible and in the church teaches its existence. We accept the teaching of Purgatory because it makes sense to us. It makes sense to us that we should make some restitution for our sins. The guilt of our sins and the harm they have done demand that there be some way that we can make restitution.
Recently I heard a story of a man who many years ago decided to leave the church and everything it represented. He said he was leaving the church so that he would be free. He decided that no one was going to tell him what is right and wrong. He would decide for himself and do what he wanted to do.
The pity is that he chose to raise his children with the same attitude—no religion—no rules—do whatever you want.
As someone said: “When there is no God—everything is permitted.” And that’s the way they lived their lives.
This is the story of a man who about forty years later found himself pointing a loaded gun to his head. His life had become so empty and meaningless that he was simply going to end it. Well, as it happened he didn’t end his life that day. Instead, he sought professional help.
His psychiatrist made the suggestion that he reverse his life. He said to him: deliberately choose the exact opposite of what you have chosen in the past. The psychiatrist said to him: “what brought you to this point of hopelessness that you want to end your life? Was it not your attitude and everything you have chosen up to now? Well you still have time to reverse it.
The man realized that this would mean returning to God and to the sacraments. He decided to allow the church to guide his moral and spiritual life. So he went to a church one Sunday and listened. He experienced God as he never experienced him before. He had a profound conversion.
This man now speaks of the overwhelming joy in his life. He also speaks of the overwhelming sorrow. The sorrow and sadness came when he realized how he ruined the lives of his children. He raised them in a secular and permissive household run by a practical atheist. How would he ever make restitution?
Purgatory gives us the opportunity to make restitution.
You have already been saved by the blood of Christ. But the wounds and injuries of sin remain in our hearts and minds and souls. Our selfishness and attachment to sin is the reason why we still need healing in Purgatory. Purgatory is a school of love—a love that burns away evil and unforgiveness.
The pain of Purgatory is a pain of regret about the harm that our sins have caused others.
The joy of Purgatory comes from knowing that eternal life is ours and that we will enjoy a happiness that will never end.
If, some day, I wake up in Purgatory I will be overjoyed because there is only one exit from Purgatory. That exit leads into the arms of a loving and merciful father.
There is a recent book entitled get us out of here. The souls in Purgatory are pleading with their family and friends to free them from the suffering in Purgatory. We can free them by offering fasting, alms, prayers, the rosary, acts of reparation, the stations of the cross, the sacrifice of the mass and much more. This is the way we help the souls in Purgatory.
The feast of all souls and the month of November dedicated to the souls in Purgatory remind us to reach out to our family and friends who have gone before us. Our prayers, masses and sacrifices will definitely help them. They are calling out for our help. Do not forget them. May they rest in peace?