All Souls Day
Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
Scriptural Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9; Psalm 23:1-3a,3b-4, 5-6; Romans 5:5-11or 6:3-9; John 6:37-40
My dear encountered couples:
Yesterday was the Feast of All Saints; today is All Souls Day. We remember people who have died and left us, yet still need our help to get into heaven. What do I mean?
It is common sense to suppose there are good people who die without being ready for heaven. The best of them may still have some defects that need to be removed. They may have imperfections that need to be worked on before they can fit in comfortably with the saints. I dare to say most of us are in that condition at this moment. Are we clear of all defects? Are we perfect? If we died at this very moment would we be ready to fit in with the saints?
It is also common sense to suppose there are bad people who die who are not quite bad enough for hell. They may have done some really nasty things, they may not have made God the center of their lives, but there was a glimmer of good in them on occasions which indicated a touch of God was still there somewhere. There was something in them that kept them from being spiritually hopeless cases. So we might wonder what happens to them.
In other words: People die who aren’t good enough to go to heaven and aren’t bad enough to go to hell. Anyone with common sense can figure that out. Then where do they go?
Maybe it isn’t a where; maybe it isn’t a place. Maybe it’s a state of being. Whatever it is, we call it Purgatory. What’s that? What’s Purgatory? Purgatory is looked upon as sort of a place or condition of being and existing in which rehabilitation and perfection can happen. Exactly how we don’t know. But those not fully prepared for heaven, those without sufficient love in them for God and neighbor and themselves have to grow more in the love they already have until they reach what is for them the state of perfect love. As I said, we are not sure how this happens.
But there always has been, both among Jewish people and Catholics, a firm belief that the prayers and sacrifices done out of love by those living on earth can somehow help people who have died. Catholic custom refers to them as the Souls in Purgatory.
We can help people on earth with our prayers and acts of love. And we believe that somehow, we can help those in purgatory with our prayers and acts of love. Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean we can’t help them. But it takes faith to believe that, doesn’t it? Of course! Religion is all about Faith. It takes faith to believe there’s a God, that there are angels, that there’s a heaven and a hell. You’re here at Mass because of faith.
Every day, not just today, try to remember those who need your prayers and sacrifices. Remember those who can benefit from the spiritual value of your acts of love done on their behalf. Times have changed a lot in recent years and I’m afraid one of those changes is our not giving much thought to the souls in purgatory. Let’s try giving them more thought. Let’s restart our praying for them. Death is not extinguishing a light. It is putting out a lamp because the dawn has come. You just might be the ray of sunshine someone needs to arrive at the high noon of heaven. Remember the Poor Souls. Brighten up their lives with your love.