32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 (1b)
November 7, 2021
Today we hear of people who contributed to the temple treasury. There are the rich people who put in large sums from their surplus wealth. There is also the poor widow that contributed from all that she had.
From this passage it would be easy to preach about your financial contribution. I do hope that you are generous in your giving in accord with your means.
I’ve spoken in recent weeks about the importance of our diocesan CMA appeal. This week we sent out a letter for a new cemetery collection to help with our financial struggles for the cemeteries. We also mailed our annual report in a new format. So, you have heard plenty about our finances. The only thing I will add today about our finances is that we recently discovered a drop in our regular collections. Please be praying about how much you are able to give.
This being said, I would like to talk about another type of giving, spiritual giving.
How do we give spiritually? We give our hearts in prayer. We are called not to pray just for ourselves but for the needs of others. Our readings today speak of widows. We can pray for those who have lost loved ones recently.
Last Tuesday we prayed for those who have died in the last year at our annual Mass of Remembrance on All Souls’ Day.
Why do we offer that Mass at this time of year?
Look at what is going on outside. The gardens are bare. As the leaves fall from the trees, the trees also become bare. The barrenness can remind us of death.
However, we know that after winter, spring will come. The leaves will come out and the gardens will grow.
As we see the barrenness outside reminding us of death, we are reminded of our loved ones who have died. However, as we remember them, we know in faith that earthly death is not a final end. We know that just as the leaves will come out again, our loved ones can rise in the Resurrection. This is our hope. This is our faith.
Still, why do we pray for them? Why do we offer Mass intentions for our loved ones? We might offer Masses for them on birthdays and anniversaries but offering a Mass for them is not simply a way of celebrating their birthday or anniversary.
We know that through the sacrifice of Jesus giving his life on the Cross their sins are forgiven. However, our sins have their effect on us.
If we have sought forgiveness, we will one day be in Heaven. However, we need to be cleansed of the effect of our sins. God has a way to do that.
It’s called Purgatory.
Yes, the Church still believes in Purgatory. We should be thankful for Purgatory so that we can get into Heaven. Once we are in Heaven, then we can pray for our loved ones still on Earth. However, for now, those of on Earth pray for the souls in Purgatory (St. Gertrude gives us a prayer to offer for the souls in Purgatory).
Jesus offers a sacrifice on our behalf in the Eucharist. It is the sacrifice that takes away our sins. There is no more powerful sacrifice out there. It is offered “once for all.” The sacrifice we offer in the Eucharist is not a new sacrifice. It is God making present for us today what Jesus did for us on the Cross 2,000 years.
Knowing the awesome nature of this sacrifice, we offer Masses for our loved ones. Now, Mass intentions can be offered for the living (most often offered for healing or wedding anniversaries) but Mass intentions are most commonly offered for the deceased. We do this to easy their time in Purgatory.
Again, Purgatory is a good thing. (If you would like to know more, on my website, I have an eight page article I wrote called, “Purgatory as a Gift That Gets Us in Shape for Heaven”.)
For now, let it suffice to offer one image of Purgatory, that of fire. However, it is not the destructive fire of Hell. It is a cleansing fire, burning away the bad and leaving the good to flourish. With the bad burned away, we can enter Heaven.
That’s Purgatory. This is why we offer Masses for the dead.
Now, I would like to shift to another way we honor our deceased loved ones, with burial.
We are used to burying the full body in a casket. In fact, for a long-time cremation was forbidden in the Catholic Church. It was forbidden because there are cultures where cremation was the norm based on beliefs that denied the Resurrection.
The Church allows cremation now as long as it is not based on a belief that would deny the resurrection of the body. However, the Catholic Church still says calls us to show proper respect for the cremains by burying them as we would a full body. We don’t just set the ashes of our loved ones aside in an urn to be forgotten and the Church says not to scatter them.
Our loved ones may be dead in this world but they are alive to God. We offer our prayers for them and treat their remains with profound respect. Even after burial, we strive to take good care of our cemeteries out of respect for those buried there.