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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate All Souls’ Day, when we commemorate and pray for the souls of all our brethren who have departed from this world ahead of us. We pray for the sake of their souls so that by the grace and the mercy of God, they may be found worthy of God’s everlasting kingdom. We pray that the souls in purgatory may be rid of their sins, and gain entry soon to the kingdom of heaven.
Today is not a day of sorrow and gloom, but a day of hope. For on this day, although we are reminded ever of our humanity and mortality, that all of us, without exception will succumb to death, but this death is not an everlasting death. It is because one Man had shown us the way, that death does not have the final say, for God has given us Jesus our Lord, to bring us from death into eternal life by His resurrection from the dead.
That means death is not an eternal separation, but a temporary one, where now we cannot see those who have departed physically in this world, but in the world to come, we shall see each other again and live a life filled with true joy in the presence of God for eternity. This is the hope brought about by our Lord’s resurrection, through which He has dealt death an ultimate defeat.
If yesterday, on the feast of All Saints, I spoke of a Universal Church that does not consist just of us all the faithful still living on earth, the Church Militant, but also consisting of the hole men and women deemed worthy of heaven, the saints of God, who are the Church Triumphant, and then also the souls of the faithful dead who are the Church Suffering, the souls in holy purgatory.
If you wonder, brethren, why ‘suffering’? This is because when someone reaches the end of his or her earthly and mortal life, there are three possible paths for them to go to from there. The first one, is the most difficult one to achieve, that is the path of the saints. This path is taken by those who lives have been filled with much piety, good deeds, faith and genuine love for God and for their fellow men. As a result, although they too are sinners, God deems that their venial sins have been completely overcome and absolved by their good deeds.
God blessed them and welcomed them into the glory of heaven. And the Church officially recognised some of them as saints, those who have been deemed worthy of heaven after their death. Then, there exists another path, which many had taken, that is the path of hell and eternal damnation. This is meant for all those who have been wicked in their lives, having committed mortal sins such as murder, disrespect for life and for the Lord, disrespecting the Church and its teachings, and other serious errors, from which they refused to repent.
These souls are lost from us and from the Lord forever, as these souls directly go into hell and without any hope for escape or redemption. They were unrepentant and therefore in His wrath, God also rejected them just as they have first rejected Him. Today, on this All Souls’ Day, these are not the souls whom we are praying for, for there is truly no benefit to pray for those who have been marked as eternally lost from us and condemned.
Of course, the fact is that we do not know who belong to this category, for it is only God, the true Judge of all, have the final decision of who is to receive eternal damnation and hell, and who to be given an opportunity or to receive the glory of eternal heaven. So we should not directly condemn so and so as evil, or deserving of hell, since all of us are sinners, and each and everyone of us are at the same risk.
Then, we come to the group in the middle, those who were not outrightly evil and wicked, so as to deserve hell and eternal damnation, and those who were also not sufficiently upright and holy so as to deserve eternal life and heaven right away, which ends up in the place called purgatory. It is in the teaching of the Church that the souls of the faithful dead, who have kept their lives mostly in line with the faith and in obedience to the Lord, but still having sufficient amount of venial sins have to spend some time in this place for the purification of their souls.
Why is this so, brethren? That is because we have to realise that while God loves us all and cares for all of us, but with us there still lies the obstacles of sin. Sin is an obstacle and a barrier that prevents us from our full and complete reconciliation with our Lord. It was because of sin, caused by disobedience, that had separated our ancestors from the grace and the blessings which God had intended to be ours for eternity.
God is good and perfect, and so good and holy such that no sin, even the smallest amount of sin should be ever present in His presence. A sinner that stands in the presence of God shall be subjected to the wrath of God and be destroyed immediately. Then, one may then ask, how about the saints then? Were they not once sinners too when they still walked on this earth?
Yes, indeed, they were once sinners too, but on the account of their great merits and their faith to God, their numerous good actions and deeds had been judged to be sufficient to atone completely for the sake of their sins. This means that all of the multitudes of their sins have been considered as being paid completely in full by their merits, as they placed their complete trust in the Lord Jesus.
What Jesus our Lord did when He gave up His life for us on the cross, was that He took up all of the original sins and the wickedness that had tainted all of us, and offering Himself as the perfect offering and sacrifice for our sins, He had liberated us all from the darkness and the sins that afflicted us all. He gave us all a new hope of salvation, for He conquered death, the ultimate consequence of sin.
This means that while once we looked at death and eternal death as our fate, and hell is our destination, but with our Lord’s intervention, He has lifted us all up and gave us a chance to enter the glorious heaven and be recipients of the original graces and blessings intended for us. But of course, as mentioned earlier, there are those who rejected this offer, and indeed, hell is their reward.
Today, on this Feast of All Souls’ Day, the ones whom we are concerned with are those souls in purgatory, who are spending their time separated temporarily from their Lord and delayed in their entry into the glorious heaven because of their residual sins. They are suffering the flames of suffering in purgatory, not because they are unworthy or wicked, but rather because they need to suffer for a while the consequences of the sins that they had remaining in them before they can enter into the presence of God, purified and cleansed.
Through our genuine and sincere prayers for these souls in purgatory, we are able to help them to reduce their time spent in purgatory, and by asking God for His mercy and for His love for these souls, we hope that the souls of our beloved brethren currently will be able to enjoy soon the glories and the joys of heaven, in the presence of our loving God, who is just and merciful.
And remember, just as we pray for them, they are also praying for us. The souls in purgatory still remember all of us, and just as they have lived their earthly lives committing good deeds and sins, they realised how their sins have made them to suffer temporarily, and those sins prevented them from directly enjoying the blessings of God in heaven. Thus, they are praying for us, that we will realise our own sins, and repent so that we will not suffer the same suffering they encountered in purgatory.
May Almighty God therefore hear our prayers, and together with the saints, and the souls in purgatory, let us all pray together as one whole Universal Church, that more and more people will be brought closer to salvation, that all of us may escape the threat of hell, and be brought ever closer to heaven, the destination that we are all looking forward to. May God receive the souls of the faithful departed and give them the everlasting joy of heaven. Amen.