November 2, 2008
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’)
John 11: 17-27
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you created us within a human family and adopted us into the family of the Church. Help me always to appreciate deeply the graces and responsibilities that this community entails. Let me find support from my brothers and sisters, but also help me to be there for them in their time of need.
Petition: Lord, inspire me to pray more frequently for the souls in Purgatory.
1. Love Is Forever
Love is forever. Our hearts will never be satisfied with anything less. Our love for God and for our brothers and sisters can and should be everlasting. If this is so, it is also fitting that we, as part of God’s extended family on earth, still communicate with those who have gone before us. Yesterday, All Saints’ Day, we honored those who have reached definitive union with God in heaven. Today, All Souls’ Day, we remember those deceased who still need their love purified in order to encounter Love personified.
2. Community of Prayer
Salvation isn’t a private matter “between God and me”; rather, it is a common effort. It is precisely because we are a community of believers – the Church – that we pray for one another. If it is love we must achieve in order to be united to God, then loving our neighbor becomes an imperative and community essential: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Love for the deceased is expressed by winning graces for them in their final journey towards God. “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them” (CCC 1032).
3. The Communion of Saints
When we pray the Apostles Creed, towards the end we profess, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” What we are stating is the truth of the mystical body of Christ. The Second Vatican Council expressed this in more specific terms in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium, 49-50) when it says, “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.” Through our good deeds, prayers and sacrifices we can aid our brothers and sisters, both living and dead, who have not yet reached the heavenly abode. I have found great consolation in the thought that every soul I am able to release from purgatory will be a powerful intercessor for me once they are in heaven. I helped them in time of need. Will they forget about me in my time of need?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, how can I profess to love you if I don’t love my neighbor (cf. 1 John 3:17)? Let my supernatural love for others grow. Let my concern for their spiritual well-being translate into prayers, sacrifices and good deeds.
Resolution: Today I will pray for several minutes for the souls of all the deceased.
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