Thursday, November 2, 2023

All Souls Day

Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin. ~ 2 Maccabees 12:42–46

Yesterday, the Church celebrated those men and women who have gone before us who now see God face to face in the Beatific Vision. Whether they are officially canonized or not, everyone in Heaven is a saint and will remain so for eternity, living lives of perfect communion with God and with everyone else in Heaven. There will be perfect order, knowledge, joy, love, and happiness forever. 

Today, as we commemorate All Souls, we turn our eyes to those men and women who have gone before us in death but died before being fully purified of every venial sin and all of sin’s effects. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (#1030–31).

All Souls Day should have a twofold focus for each of us. First and foremost, today’s commemoration is a call to prayer for those who have died and are being purified in final preparation for their entrance into the Beatific Vision. Though God has no need of our prayers, it is His divine will that we participate in the distribution of His grace. For that reason, He chooses to solicit our prayers and then answer them, making us active instruments of His purifying grace so needed by those in this world and in Purgatory. By praying for those in Purgatory, especially today, we are assured that God lavishes upon them all that they need for the complete purification of their souls. The Mass, and our participation in the Mass, is particularly powerful and is the ideal way to open the floodgates of mercy for our loved ones who have died and remain unperfected.