Today we fulfilled one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, that of praying for the dead. As we come together, I am sure each and every one of us have a loved one that we are missing and holding in our hearts and praying for.
I know when somebody dies, especially somebody that is close to me, I always have that sense that I’m no longer going to get to see them or hear their voice here on this earth. There are times that come with what seems to be just a flush of the doubt for me.
I love that in the first reading, we hear the foolish; in the eyes of the foolish, they seem to be dead. If we ever have a thought like that, we can always remember that phrase; in the eyes of the foolish, they seem to be dead. Foolish thinking if we think they are no more.
There is a beautiful line in the funeral liturgy that says, “That for those who believe, life has changed, not ended.” That means that we have this relationship with that person that is changed but has not come to an end. In reality, that relationship is even deeper now. That person is even closer than they ever could have been here on earth physically.
As we celebrate this great feast of All Souls, I just want you to be aware of their presence. Whenever we celebrate Mass, we are joined together by all of the Angels and the Saints and by all of those who have gone before us.
One of the saints had a vision; she was at Mass, and she had a vision that her loved one was on the bottom step of the altar, and there was a fire. She prayed for them, and she told the priest, and the priest didn’t believe her, and he said, “Put a piece of Kleenex there, and we’ll see what happens.” She put a piece of Kleenex there, and sure enough, it caught on fire. She was offering three masses. It was at a Benedictine Monastery. That was the first Mass. During the second Mass, she noticed that the fire was out, but there was still some purification that was needed. Then at the final Mass, He was dressed in a white suit, and during the Eucharistic Prayer, he began to ascend into heaven.
That’s what we’re praying for when we pray for the dead. We pray for any purgation that they still might be going through. Purgatory Pope Benedict said, is God’s last and greatest gift to us.
The way I look at Purgatory is God gently helping us to let go of any attachment that we still have that keeps us from being holy, pure, and completely together with Him.
How do we maintain that relationship with our loved ones? We do so in the most powerful way as we do today in Eucharist because, as I mentioned, we’re surrounded by them. We do so in our prayer and through our memory. But the most important and powerful way to remain in union with them is to remain in union with Jesus.
We hear in the Gospel the beautiful passage of Doubting Thomas. Jesus says, “There’s a place for you in heaven.” Thomas says, “How do we know how to get there?” Jesus says that most powerful line, “I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”
So, the only way that we can stay close to our loved ones is by drawing closer, and closer, and closer to Jesus in this life. So much so that the union with Him, you will also share in the union that He has with them.
As we pray for our loved ones today, we ask for that same grace, that they may be drawn from any purgation, from any Purgatory, and during the celebration of this Mass, that they may be received by our heavenly Father through Our Lord, Jesus.