Today is November 2, 2014 and since it is All Soul’s Day and it falls on a Sunday, the Church commemorates all the faithful departed. Right after the Solemnity of All Saints day, the Catholic Church remembers All Souls who have departed and who are in Purgatory. This feast day was celebrated around the time of Pentecost in the past, but by the 10th century, it was moved to its current date.
The first reading from the book of Wisdom reminds us that those who die in grace are in the hand of God. They are not tormented anymore. No longer do they have to face the pains and trials they had face while on Earth. God will wipe away their tears and remove their pain (Revelation 21:4). To us here on Earth, especially those who lack faith, death may seem like it is something permanent. Dying seems to us as the end of it all.
“They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.”
These words are very powerful. They are written and spoken with defiance of the “norm” of nature: death. Everything in nature dies, even the particles that make up the universe dissipate into nothing. Are dead people really gone? The first reading tells us no. They seem to be dead and their death is interpreted as a bad. We see them as going away or “passing away” from us. To a nihilist, the dead may appear as completely obliterated from space and time. However, this is not the case. The immortal soul lives on in the peace of God if it lived in the state of grace while on Earth. We live here on this planet once and for a short time and then we are called back to God to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There is no reincarnation, no rebirths. We get only one shot to get it right while on Earth. While living we suffer and go through a lot just like gold in a furnace as the first reading describes. Gold is a beautiful and precious metal. However, it comes from rocks and often is contaminated with other less valuable materials which have to be removed when the gold is melted.
The gold in the first reading is referring to the human person. God sees us as gold, but this gold is still not perfect. It has to go through the furnace to get purified. We can go through this furnace while on Earth or via purgatory. This is of course metaphoric language and not a literal furnace. It is a poetic way of describing the importance of the human being. Suffering is important in the Christian life. When we suffer, we become stronger and holier (Romans 5:3-5). This suffering is a trial that we must go through to restore our purity. Those who endure suffering will reap the rewards God will give (1 Peter 5:10). Sometimes we complain that we suffer too much and even blame God. However, God will allow us to suffer something that we cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The responsorial Psalm is the famous Psalm 23 which reminds us that God is the shepherd and provides for us. He is our guide that provides water for us to drink, food to eat, green pastures to roam free and rest upon. God fights for us and allows us to celebrate before our enemies or those who wish for us to fail. If we remain with God, we will enjoy living in His house for the rest of eternity.
For the second reading, one of two options from the book of Romans can be chosen. The first option reminds us that Christ died for all people including the ungodly. It is through His sacrifice on the Cross that He redeemed the world and opened for us the doors of heaven, or salvation. He is the life saver that came down to Earth from Heaven in order to rescue us from sin and death; and ourselves! In the second option from the book of Romans, we read about how those who are baptized are still part of the Church even if they have gone before us. When we are baptized, we become members of the mystical body of Christ. Nothing can separate us from this body, not even death. At baptism we died with Christ and we will rise just like He did. Death has no power over Jesus.
Finally in the Gospel, we read about Jesus speaking to a crowd and telling them that whoever comes to Him, He will not reject. Those who come to Jesus and believe in Him through thick and thin, will be raised on the last day and will live with Him in eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection was a more powerful message to early Christians than the crucifixion. Jesus died on a cross which was a typical form of capital punishment at the time. To the people back then this would have been nothing big or important. They would have said, “okay, He died, so what…” However, what sealed the faith and validated it, so to speak, was the resurrection of Jesus. By Jesus rising from the dead, He showed that He was not a liar or scam artist and showed that He is more powerful than death itself. We here on Earth in the 21st century have accomplished so much. We know a lot about physics, biology etc. We make all kinds of fancy electronics, have better ways to communicate and even send people to outer space. However, there is something in life that we cannot control and that is death. No matter what medicines or vaccines we have; no matter what machines or treatments we can invent, death always gets the best of us. Our brains, our knowledge is no match for death. As a matter of fact, death is the only thing we all can guarantee will happen to us one day. Death is so scripted into existence that we all perceive the limits of time in regards to our lives because of it. The youth today use the expression “YOLO” or “you only live once.” This shows that even the younger generation understand that they will only be on Earth for a while. By Jesus rising from the dead, He showed that He is the master of both life and death. Those of us who remain in Christ will be raised on the last day. We will conquer death, not by our own means, but by the power and presence of Jesus Christ the Lord. We shall mock death asking where is his sting, where is his victory (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Today’s readings are a great way to meditate on death or when we lose a loved one. Death never has the final say. Our deceased loved ones did not “disappear” like a muon particle. The immortal soul lives on forever and can never be killed (Matthew 10:28). We should always pray and offer our suffering for the souls in purgatory and ask them to pray for us still battling on Earth.
On this day there are two Plenary indulgences given to the faithful. The faithful receive the indulgences by
1) Visiting a Church and/or 2) Visiting a Cemetery. Of course the requirements for receiving an indulgence must be met in order for it to be valid.
- Sacramental Confession
- Holy Eucharist
- Prayer for the intention of the Pope and Church.
Sin must be completely avoided, even Venial sins which are not as grave as Mortal, but still do damage.
The indulgence can be obtained every day for a visit to the Cemetery from November 1 – 8. The merits of the indulgence can be applied to the deceased in Purgatory.
Purgatory is a condition or state in which the Soul is purified before entering the Glory of Heaven. This purification is temporary and a Soul can go through it quicker when we pray and offer indulgences for the Souls. (2 Macc. 12:43-45)
Let us pray for all the dead and dying; and for all the Souls in Purgatory. They too pray for us, so let us return the favor (Phil 2:10, Baruch 3:4, Revelation 5:8).
Do not forget the dead. Pray for them everyday, not just on this day. Offer your works, suffering and indulgences obtained for the dead.