This Wednesday, November 1, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. As
we praise and thank God for the Communion of Saints and pray for their intercession
in the full joy of Heaven (Colossians 1; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7-8), God reminds us
that He calls each of us to be a saint. In other words, He calls us to live the virtues of
faith, hope and love in heroic ways as His faithful, holy disciples, and reminds us that
He has made us for Heaven, that our purpose in life is to be with God the Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, forever in Heaven, in eternal peace, joy and love, with all His saints
and angels (Matthew 5:1-12).
Then, on Thursday, November 2, the Church prays for All Souls, solemnly remembering
all the faithful departed. We pray for people who have died because they may benefit
from our prayers if they are in Purgatory, which is not a place but a state of being, a
state of purification that occurs in Heaven. When we die, we either go to Heaven or
to Hell – and God will judge us according to our deeds, whether good or evil (2 Cor.
5:10; Matthew 25). To be in Purgatory means that we are in Heaven, for Jesus has saved
us from our sins. To be before the Face of God in the full joy of Heaven, we may need
a purging of the effects of the sins we committed, sins that Jesus Christ has forgiven.
For example, when I broke a window at my parents’ home, I asked them to forgive me
and they did, but the window remained broken. Someone had to repair it. Likewise,
God forgives us of our sins when we sincerely seek His forgiveness, yet the effects of
our sins remain (harm we caused to others by our sins). So, by God’s grace, we make
reparations to repair the damage we caused by our sins. Such reparation (Masses, prayers, fasting, almsgiving, penances) can also be done by us on behalf of the dead who may need a final purification.
Purgatory, then, is a state of purification in Heaven, where the saving merits of Jesus
Christ’s death and Resurrection are applied to the soul of the deceased Christian who has
died with non-deadly (1 John 5:16-17) post-baptismal sins on his soul ( Jesus purifies us
of the effects of the sins He has forgiven). This final purgation prepares the Christian’s
soul for total union with God in the full joy of Heaven. The word “Purgatory” does
not appear in the Bible, but we use the term just as we use such non-Biblical words as
“Trinity” to describe God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us pray for the faithful
departed – if they’re already in the fullness of Heaven before the Beatific Vision of
God, then they don’t need our prayers and penance, and God will apply them to others
who do need them. The Bible and Catechism help us to understand Jesus Christ’s
Teachings on Purgatory: Isaiah 6:5-7; 2 Macc. 12:38-46; Sirach 7:33; Psalm 99:8; Rev. 6:9-10, 8:3-4, 21:27; Matthew 5:8, 5:48, 12:32, 17:1-8, 25:31-46; Mark 9:49; Luke 16:19-31; John 5:16-17; 1 Cor. 3:10-20, 15:20-34; 2 Cor. 4:7-18, 5:1-10; 2 Tim. 1:15-18; Hebrews 9:23-28,
12:14. Also, Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030-1032.
With peace and prayers in Christ,