Sunday Reflections

November 2, 2014
November 2, 2014

All Souls' Day

Synopsis 

All Souls’ Day is a day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone to their eternal reward and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification. 

Ancient belief
1) People of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul, and have prayed for the dead. 

2)  The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release. The Jewish catechism Talmud states that prayers for the dead will help to bring greater rewards and blessings to them. Prayer for the souls of the departed is retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that he/she may be purified.

3) Jesus and the apostles shared this belief and passed it on to the early Church. “Remember us who have gone before you, in your prayers,” is a petition often found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs (Lumen Gentium-50). 

4) The liturgies of the Mass in various rites dating from the early centuries of the Church include “Prayers for the Dead.”

5) The early Fathers of the Church encouraged this practice. Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) wrote about the anniversary Masses for the dead, advising widows to pray for their husbands. St. Augustine remarked that he used to pray for his deceased mother, remembering her request: "When I die, bury me anywhere you like, but remember to pray for me at the altar" (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 9,  Chapter 11, Section 27).  

6) The synods of Nicaea, Florence and Trent encouraged the offering of prayers for the dead, citing Scriptural evidences to prove that there is a place or state of purification for those who die with venial sins on their souls. 

7) Theological reason: According to Revelation: 21:27: “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” Holy Scripture (Proverbs 24: 16) also teaches that even "the just sin seven times a day.” Since it would be contrary to the mercy of God to punish such souls with venial sins in Hell, they are seen as entering a place or state of purification, called Purgatory, which combines God’s justice with His mercy. This teaching is also contained in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. 

Biblical evidence
1) II Maccabees, 12:46 is the main Biblical text incorporating the Jewish belief in the necessity of prayer and sacrifice for the dead. The passage (II Maccabees 12: 39-46), describes how Judas, the military commander, “took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering” (II Macc. 12: 43). The narrator continues, "If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them.”  

2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief. At the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: “May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day” (II Timothy: 1:18). Other pertinent Bible texts: Matthew 12:32, I Corinthians, 3:15, Zechariah 13:19, Sirach 7:33.  

The Church’s teaching: The Church's official teaching on Purgatory is plain and simple. There is a place or state of purification called Purgatory, where souls undergoing purification can be helped by the prayers of the faithful (Council of Trent). Some modern theologians suggest that the fire of Purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and his fire of love. They also speak of Purgatory as an "instant” purification immediately after death, varying in intensity from soul to soul, depending on the state of each individual. 

How do we help the “holy souls”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1032) recommends prayer for the dead in conjunction with the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The CCC also encourages "almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead." Let us not forget to pray for our dear departed, have Masses offered for them, visit their graves, and make daily sacrifices for them.

ALL SOULS’ DAY:: Is 25: 6-9; Rom 6: 3-9; Jn 6: 37-40 
Introduction
This is a day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone to their eternal reward, and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification. From time immemorial, people of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul, and have prayed for the dead. The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release. The Jewish Talmud states that prayers for the dead will help to bring greater rewards and blessings to them. Since Jesus in no way contradicted this ancient belief, the efficacy of prayers for those who have died was incorporated by the infant Church in its teachings and practice. Evidence suggests that the belief dates back to the first century of the Church. “Remember us who have gone before you, in your prayers,” is a petition often found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs (Lumen Gentium 50). In addition, Mass liturgies dating from these early centuries of the Church include “Prayers for the Dead.” Some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Praying for the deceased members of the family as part of their family night prayers was also an ancient practice of oriental Christians. The early Fathers of the Church encouraged this practice which they believed had been inherited from the Apostles. Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) wrote about the anniversary Masses for the dead, advising widows to pray for their husbands. St. Augustine remarked that he used to pray for his deceased mother, remembering her request: "When I die, bury me anywhere you like, but remember to pray for me at the altar” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 13 Sections 35-37). 

 The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that Purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word.

Logical belief, supported by synods. The Catholic Church teaches that not everyone who dies in God's grace is immediately ready for the Beatific Vision, that is, the direct experience of God and His perfect nature in heaven. So they must be purified of "lesser faults," and the temporal punishment due to sin in a place or state of purification. The Catholic teaching on Purgatory essentially requires belief in two realities: 1. that there will be a purification of believers prior to entering Heaven and 2. that the prayers and Masses of the faithful in some way benefit those in the state of purification. The synods of Florence and Trent encouraged the offering of prayers for the dead, citing Scriptural evidence to prove that there is a place or state of purification for those who die with venial sins on their souls. According to Revelation 21:27, “Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven” (cfr. also Is. 35: 8 and Wisdom 7: 25). Holy Scripture teaches that even "the just sin seven times a day" (Proverbs 24:16).  Since it would be contrary to the mercy of God to punish such souls in Hell, they are seen as entering a place or state of purification, Purgatory, which combines God’s justice with His mercy. This teaching is also contained in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. The Catholic Church understands the Communion of Saints as a relationship of love joining the faithful, living and departed. The Saints, both in Heaven and in Purgatory, pray for us, and we pray both to the Saints in heaven for their intercession, and for those in Purgatory, that they may swiftly enter the Beatific Vision. Thus, death is no barrier to prayerful communion with the dead. We lovingly remember them and thank God for their eternal reward. These souls can experience the love of Christ who frees them from their imperfections.  Said Pope St. John Paul II : "Before we enter into God’s kingdom, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected." (CCC #1030-1032).

 Biblical evidence
1) II Maccabees, 12:46 is the main Biblical text incorporating the Jewish belief in the necessity of prayer and sacrifice for the dead. The passage (II Maccabees 12: 39-46), describes how Judas, the military commander, discovered that those of his men who had died in a particular battle had been wearing forbidden pagan amulets. His men at once "begged that the sin committed might be fully blotted out" (II Macc. 12: 42). Judas then “took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering” (II Macc. 12: 43). The narrator continues, ”If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them; whereas, if he had had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. This was why he had this atonement sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin" (II Macc. 12: 44-46). These verses so clearly illustrate the existence of Purgatory that, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants had to cut the books of the Maccabees out of their Bibles in order to avoid accepting the doctrine. Not only can we show that prayer for the souls of the departed was practiced by the Jews of the time of the Maccabees, but it has even been retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that the loved one may be purified. 

 2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief. At the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: “May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day” (II Timothy: 1:18). 

3) Matthew 12:32 hints at the possibility of sins being forgiven after death, "in the age to come,", when Jesus refers to the impossibility of forgiveness of sins against the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine and St. Gregory interpret this phrase, "in the age to come,” as a reference to Purgatory. Jesus' statement that certain sins "will not be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come," at least suggests a purging of the soul after death. Pope St. Gregory (d. 604) stated, "As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.” The Council of Lyons (1274) likewise affirmed this interpretation of our Lord's teaching.

4) In I Corinthians, 3:15, St. Paul speaks of a "test by fire" after death to prove the worth of our work in this world: "But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire.” Several of the early Church Fathers considered this a reference to a process of purification after death.

5) Zechariah 13:19 “And I will test the third that survives and will purify them as silver is purified by fire." The Jewish School of Rabbi Shammai interpreted this passage as a purification of the soul through God's mercy and goodness, preparing it for eternal life. The Fathers of the Church interpret the statement as a reference to Purgatory.

6) Sirach 7:33 "Withhold not your kindness from the dead" The Jewish rabbis used to interpret this passage as imploring God to cleanse the souls of the deceased.

The Church’s teaching
The Church's official teaching on Purgatory is plain and simple. There is a place or state of purification called Purgatory, where souls undergoing purification can be helped by the prayers of the faithful (Council of Trent). In Lumen Gentium (50-52), Purgatory is seen in the broader context of salvation and heaven. Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church asserts, "This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of Heaven or who are yet being purified after their death; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea, of the Council of Florence, and of the Council of Trent" (No. 51). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Purgatory as the “final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC #1031). Some modern theologians suggest that the fire of Purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and his fire of love. They also speak of Purgatory as an "instant” purification immediately after death, varying in intensity from soul to soul, depending on the state of each individual. According to this view, the refining fire of Purgatory is only a relic of medieval imagery. It is actually the fire of Divine love. It may, in fact, be a form of "blazing enlightenment" which penetrates and perfects our very being. God can anticipate and apply the merits of our present and future prayers for the dead, in favor of the souls we pray for, at the time of their purification. Pope Benedict considers Purgatory as an “existential state” and hence it is not necessarily accurate to speak of a location or duration of Purgatory. According to Pope Benedict XVI, "the souls that are aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God consequently suffer for not having responded correctly and perfectly to that love." It is the suffering of the holy souls. He continues that Purgatory is thus “the fringe of heaven, a state where heaven's eternal light has a refining effect on the “holy souls” (not 'poor souls'), who are held in the arms of Divine Mercy.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dWf_BtITG1Y .

How do we help the “holy souls”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC # 1032) recommends prayer for the dead in conjunction with the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Mirae caritatis (1902), states, "The grace of mutual love among the living, strengthened and increased by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, flows, especially by virtue of the Sacrifice [of the Mass], to all who belong to the Communion of Saints. The Catechism also encourages "almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead." All these prayerful acts are to be conducted as matters of faith, and not as something magical. The greatest act is to offer Mass for the dead, because in this One Sacrifice, the merits of our Lord Jesus are applied to the dead. Hence, this reconciling offering of the Lord is the greatest and most perfect prayer, which we can offer for the dead in their state of purification. Let us not forget to pray for our dear departed, have Masses offered for them, visit their graves, and make daily sacrifices for them.

Testimony by Fr. Paddy: When I was young, the devotion to the Holy Souls was very popular. People offered Masses for the Holy Souls. On All Souls Day each Priest offered three Masses, people came in great numbers for the Masses and they visited the Church often during the day to gain indulgences by their prayers. Even today relatives have Mass offered for their loved ones on their anniversary, birthday, Christmas and Easter. Sadly, however, prayer for the Holy Souls is not as popular as in times past. If I were to ask what is the best thing you can do for a loved one who has died what would you say? A funeral to talk about them? A nice grave and headstone? A tree, plant or a beautiful flower? Have a wonderful reception?  Yes all those things are nice. But the best gift is prayer because that is the only thing that can help them on their journey to the Lord. I have put at the end of my will, “Please don’t spend time talking about me, spend time praying for me.” For it is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sin. (Oct 30, 2009) (sacredheartparish@xtra.co.nz) 

Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (akadavil@gmail.com) and published in the CBCI website by the Office for Social Communications. You may contact akadavil@gmail.com for weekday homilies, and a dozen more additional anecdotes.

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