OUR HOPE FOR LIFE AFTER DEATH
It is obvious that death is a gain and life a penalty. St Paul says it: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. What does Christ means to us here if not the death of the body and the breath of life? And so we must die with him in order to live with him. There should be in us a daily habit and disposition towards dying so that our soul may learn to cut away all carnal desires and take on itself the likeness of death, by seeing things as from the height of heaven, out of reach of the lusts of the world, where they cannot bind it to themselves: so it shall escape the punishment of spiritual death (Second reading of the office of reading, All Souls Day).
After celebrating the solemnity of All Saints, today the church invites us to commemorate all the faithful departed, to turn our eyes to the many faces who have gone before us and who have ended their earthly journey. Today, we reflect on the reality of death, which for us Christians, is illuminated by the resurrection of Christ, and so as to renew our faith in eternal life.
The Church commemorates the faithful departed for three reasons: 1) We believe in the communion of saints. 2) We believe in life after death (resurrection). 3) We believe in purgatory. There is no room for hopelessness in Christianity. St Paul says: “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we are the most unfortunate people” (1Cor 15:12). Our hope is not in this world, but in the world to come (heaven). When we die we leave this world to meet our creator but before we enter into the full communion with God, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated and every imperfection in our soul must be corrected.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of the eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030). The church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (CCC 1031). Purgatory is a sign of God’s mercy on those who have honestly sought to know God and to do his will in this life and yet die in some degree of bondage to sin or the effect of sin. Pope St John Paul II explains that the term purgatory does not indicate a place but a condition of existence where Christ removes the remnants of imperfection.
The church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. St Augustine (City of God XX.9) holds that “the souls of the faithful departed are not separated from the church, which is the kingdom of Christ, and for this reason the prayer and works of the living are helpful to the dead”. He noted that if we had no care for the dead we would not be in the habit of praying for them. The souls in purgatory benefit from and need the prayers and works of charity of all Christians as spiritual help in overcoming their spiritual separation from God.
Catholics believe that death can separate people whom they love from them for only a while. We are still united with them in the communion of saints. On this feast of all souls, and throughout the month of November, we recall our deceased relatives, friends, and all the faithful departed who may be waiting for the full joy of heaven in purgatory. We pray for them, remembering that these people being purified have the power to intercede for us too.
So today we remember in a special way these brothers and sisters of ours. Our remembering is not done with grief like those who have no hope. Rather, we do so in a spiritual of faith and hope, knowing that the faithful departed share in the resurrection of Christ and live in communion with us.
Eternal rest grant unto them o lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Fr Dumlesi Tor