Thursday, November 2, 2017

“We must empty purgatory with our prayers.”

“Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That He can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with Him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.” - Pope Benedict XVI

Gospel Text: (JN 6:37-40)
Jesus said to the crowds:
"Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day."

The practice of praying for the faithful departed goes all the way back to the early Christian era when names of the deceased were posted in places of worship so that all could pray for them. The catacombs of Rome testify to this practice.

Purgatory is not a physical location but a stage for the purification of souls before entrance into God's heaven. St. Pope Gregory the Great reminds us that souls needing purification undergo a process of further cleansing which allows them to enter heaven. Jesus tells us that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be condemned (Mk 3: 29) but for lesser offenses there would be purification before entrance into heaven. Based on Scriptural passages which speak of cleansing and purification, the Church teaching on purification was formulated at the Councils of Trent and Florence (CCC# 330, 331)

When we pray for the faithful departed we simply practice what we profess in Apostles' Creed, "I believe in the communion of saints ... the resurrection of the body." We are all adopted sons and daughters of God. The deceased have gone ahead to be with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While we grieve at the loss of loved ones, we trust in Jesus' words that all who believe will be saved.

Purgatory is not some kind of prison where one is expected to make restitution for offenses of the past; rather purgatory provides for inward transformation to make it possible to be united with God.

Perhaps purgatory may be likened to a boot camp for heaven. No matter who or how we may be, boot camps are meant to prepare us for future tasks and responsibilities. It is a time to deepen one's relationships with the merciful and loving Father who sent his only begotten Son so that we may have eternal life.

The celebration of All Souls reminds the living to pray for the departed that they may rise again as promised by Jesus to his followers. 

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