All Souls’ Day
November 2, 2014
Yesterday morning we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, venerating those who have already passed into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Today we celebrate the Commemoration of the All the Faithful Departed, commonly known as All Souls’ Day.
Why celebrate All Souls’ Day? What about our Catholic Faith are we recognizing today?
As people of our faith, we seek God and to know God fully in the Kingdom of Heaven. God invites each and every person to enter into His Kingdom. This does not mean everyone necessarily gets into Heaven.
Jesus says, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” He also says “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.” It is not enough to just know about Jesus. We must come to him, we must believe in him. Coming to Jesus, believing in Jesus, means living in accord with what he has taught us.
Not everyone does. It takes effort and it takes time. Paul writes, “For if we have grown into union with him… we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”
When we do follow Jesus, earthly death is not a final end. It is not an affliction to be avoided nor is it utter destruction. When we believe in Jesus, earthly death is a transformative moment leading us to the heavenly kingdom for the souls of the just are in the hand of God.
This is our faith but still why “All Souls’ Day?”
We try to follow Jesus but the unfortunate reality is that we don’t always succeed. We sin and that divides from God. We need to be forgiven. We receive God’s forgiveness in this world through confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Our sins are truly forgiven in the sacrament but the reality remains that our sins are part of who we are. I think that is part of why it can be difficult to feel forgiven, we still remember what we did and how it affected other people.
Sin affects who we are and that needs to be addressed after our earthly death but before we can enter into Heaven. That’s why we pray for our deceased family and friends. That’s our theology of offering Mass intentions for the deceased. While anniversaries and birthdays can be good days to offer Mass intentions, theologically it is not about the anniversary but praying for their time in Purgatory.
Yes, Purgatory still exists. We don’t talk about it much but we haven’t gotten rid of it.
What is Purgatory? Everyone who is in Purgatory has already received judgment. If you make it to Purgatory, you will make it to Heaven but first we need some refinement of the effects of our sins.
Our prayers do not change people’s sins. Rather, our prayers are to ease time in Purgatory and make it quick. I say “ease” their time. Does that mean Purgatory is painful or difficult? Here let me first say we don’t really know exactly what Purgatory is like. It is described in the writings of some of the saints as a cleansing fire.
Fire? Isn’t Hell where we think of fire? Purgatory and Hell use different images of fire. In Hell, fire is painful and destructive. Purgatory is a very different sense of fire, its goal to purge out the bad.
Think of the fire of Hell like a wildfire that is out of control and destroys everything in its path. Think of the fire of Purgatory as a controlled burn to get rid of the bad undergrowth so the good may thrive.
Purgatory is all about getting rid of what is bad inside us. God very much wants us to be in Heaven but to be in Heaven we need to be perfect and the reality is that we aren’t perfect. We know this and God knows this. That is why God has given us the gift of Purgatory. Yes, I said gift. It is a gift because God chooses to give it to us to make it possible for us to be in Heaven and without a doubt Heaven is a gift.
Recognizing the need for Purgatory, today on All Souls’ Day we can pray specifically for our own deceased family and friends but today especially we pray for all the souls in Purgatory, especially those that have no one to pray for them.