Yesterday and today we celebrate two interesting feasts of the church – All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These feasts teach us that the life of the church extends beyond time and stretches into eternity. In death life is changed not ended and when our earthly body turns to dust we gain an everlasting place in heaven. Our perishable selves will be imperishable and our mortal selves will be immortal. Whether we are on this side of the grave or beyond the grave we are all one family, one church, one communion of the saints.
As for the feast of All Saints, as I’ve said before, the saints of the church are in the pews of the church. The saints of this parish are wives and husbands being true to their commitments and staying together, supporting and sustaining each other in their good times and in their rough times. Today’s saints are mothers and fathers who love and support sons or daughters challenged by physical or mental issues. Today’s saints are those sons and daughters who care for aging parents who’ve lost the ability to live on their own and need the help of others. Today’s saints are our young men and women who are willing to share their time and talent getting involved with the social issues of the times, the need for affordable housing, the homeless, the hungry, the street people, our un-employed youth. The saints we see today are the doctors and health care givers who leave home and family and go to those exposed to the Ebola disease. These are the saints of today’s church and today’s world. For all the tragedies of our present day our world is blessed with good people doing many good works, being there for neighbours in need.
This dreary month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls, family members and friends who touched our lives in so many ways and are now with God. We pray for the souls in purgatory. But what is purgatory. First, what purgatory is not.. It is not a place of physical suffering, it can’t be, we are talking about souls. It is not a place of fire.
When we die we come to know God’s love for us in a whole new way and at the same time we know come to know ourselves in ways we never could before. We come face to face with our selfishness, our self – indulgence and self-centeredness. We come to see how deficient we were in responding to and returning God’s love for us by the many ways we failed in the great commandment, ’love one another as I have loved you.’
We realize, in a way we never could before, how we neglected or ignored the gifts and the love of God. We come to know as we’ve never known before, that the love of God was poured into our hearts with the force of a Tsunami, and we have to face the fact that we returned that torrent of love drip by stingy drip. The pain of purgatory is realizing what we might have become if we had responded more openly to God’s call to life and love. This is the pain of purgatory. We have a sense of how unworthy we are to be in God’s presence. We want to be purged of our self – centeredness and self – indulgence. We want to be rid of all those things that kept us from being Christ like so the Father can see and love in us what he sees and loves in Christ.
This is the truth behind the teachings on purgatory. That is why the prayers of those we leave behind can help us in our desire for the readiness we need for our total communion with God. Scripture tells us “it is a good and holy thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.’
We can continue to celebrate this Mass thanking God for all the saints who have gone before us, for all the saints who enrich our lives today. We pray for the souls of the faithful departed knowing full well that when we die we will need the prayers of others.