Love is Stronger Than Death
On the first two days of this month of November, the Church implores us to confront the mystery of death. I addressed this direction last Sunday in this “Corner” as well as in my homily. We continue to hear, in today’s Scripture readings, from Paul and Matthew, that it is imperative for us to be prayerfully mindful of our deceased brothers and sisters and to remain alert and focused on the unpredictable, yet inevitable, call that each one of us will receive from Our Lord.
This month is also meant to remind us that love is stronger than death, and that Christ’s death, His dying for all of us, means that our beloved deceased who believed in Christ are indeed alive. They may be among those whose lungs now breathe the exhilarating air of Heaven and whose eyes now gaze upon the glory of God. In this case, they, as members of the “Church Triumphant” help us…through their prayers. However, they might be among those whose lungs were not quite ready for breathing that rarified air of Heaven and whose eyes were not yet ready for the brilliance of the Beatific Vision, because their body still carried an infection that needed to be eliminated. In which case, we must help them through our prayers. Our loving intercession can hasten the purification and preparation necessary for the full enjoyment of their inheritance.
The Catholic Church has always been very reserved in its teaching about the mystery of life after death, including the mystery of purgatory. So, here’s a look at what we know. Christ’s Death on the Cross, and His subsequent Resurrection, won the access to Eternal Life for everyone. However, the fruit of His Redemptive Death needs to be personally embraced and valued. Each of us must say “Yes” to Christ, and yield to the liberating power of His grace which progressively takes away the sin’s power and heals the wounds of sin. All of us are obliged to actively participate in this process and to enthusiastically renounce all sin, great and small. God, through his Church, provides us with the grace (and yes, as a gift) that is necessary to facilitate this purification and healing.
But…what about those of us who say a fundamental “Yes” to Christ, but continue to drag our feet, and still cling to some of those “small” sins, retaining ever-so-slight attachments to the evil that we’ve supposedly renounced? Purgatory… is the process after death… where these attachments, the “umbilical cords” (if you will) which bind us to this old world, are cut… so that we can be free to enter into the Heavenly life to come. Purgatory is the “Hospital”, so-to-speak, where the “infection of sin” is eliminated. It is the incubator where heart, lungs, and vision are made ready for a much fuller, much larger life.
Now, Purgatory is not a “temporary hell”, and it is not simply a “bus stop” that we breeze past on our way to Heaven. And the Church does not teach that there is physical fire there… or that people spend a certain number of years or months there (for after death, how do we measure time?) or that everyone but the greatest saints must go there after death (all the means are provided for purification to happen right here on earth…in this life…before death!). So let us be mindful that we cannot know for sure, where our beloved deceased are, unless they happen to be canonized saints. So when there is any doubt, we should pray for them. If they happen to need our help, our prayerful act of kindness can have great impact on them. If not, this kind act still has great impact on us, increasing our ability to love so that we will be ready to enter directly into the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when our own time inevitably comes.
Through the Mercy of God, may they all rest in Peace,