Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate on the day after All Saints’ Day, the Feast of All Souls. On this All Souls’ Day, we commemorate all the souls of the faithful who have departed from this world. We remember our loved ones who have passed on and all others who have gone before us, those whose earthly lives and existences had come to an end.
On this All Souls’ Day, we pray for those holy souls in purgatory, those who are also part of the universal Church of God. They are the Church Suffering just as the glorious saints in Heaven are the Church Triumphant and we who are still living in this world are part of the Church Militant. We are all united as part of this same Church of God and through the Church we have been brought together as one family of people who have called God as our Father, Lord and Master.
While the saints have already attained the glory of Heaven, those holy souls in purgatory we are remembering and praying for today and throughout this whole month in particular are those who have yet to merit immediately the glory of Heaven. Their sins, unrepented and unforgiven, while judged by God not to be great enough to be condemned for eternity in hell, were significant enough that they could not enter immediately into heavenly glory unlike the saints.
They had passed through what the Church called as the ‘particular judgment’, which refers to the judgment of everyone’s souls right at the moment of their passing from the earthly life. This is distinct from the general judgment that will happen at the end of time, also better known as the Last Judgment, when everyone righteous will be judged to be worthy, and their bodies will be raised again and reunited with their holy souls, in a new glorious existence with God as described at the end of the Book of Revelations.
Thus, the holy souls in purgatory have been judged to be worthy and will never end up in hell, hence being considered as holy. It is a misconception to think that purgatory is a place in between heaven and hell, and that people may still end up in hell after purgatory. Those who have ended up in purgatory and will be there in time to come, which include many of us, not holy enough to be like the saints, or wicked enough to deserve hell, we shall endure the flames of purgatory on our way to Heaven.
What is purgatory like, brothers and sisters in Christ? There had been several descriptions of purgatory by the Church fathers, saints and other authors, but they agreed that purgatory while it is a place where the souls of the righteous were awaiting their entry into Heaven, but it is also a place of great suffering, not because of their wickedness but rather because their residual sins, unforgiven, that made them to suffer for their love of God.
Those who have significant sins and ended up in purgatory cannot come directly to the holy presence of God because no sin, no matter how small or insignificant it may be, can be in the presence of God. Thus, those in purgatory are waiting for the expiation or the atonement of their sins. They suffer because they all love God and to be in the presence of God, but they were not yet able to do so.
The flames of purgatory were often described in descriptions of purgatory, but in truth, the flames and the sufferings of purgatory are symbolic of the burning love of God that are in each and every one of the holy souls there. It is their burning love and desire to be with God, and the sorrow and repentance over the sins which prevented them from attaining the fullness of heavenly glory that made them to suffer.
It is indeed good that all these souls are already destined for Heaven, in time to come. For some, it will be shorter while others had to wait for longer time. But regardless of this, the suffering of the holy souls in purgatory is real, and some saints, including St. John Vianney have written their experiences of interacting with the souls in purgatory, as for example, in one occasion, saw the holy souls in purgatory and their sufferings, and how through prayer, and offering of the Holy Mass with intentions for those souls in purgatory, the souls were liberated and brought into heavenly glory.
Through what we have heard, discussed and listened today on the matter of the holy souls in purgatory, many of whom we may have known, and one day which may be our turn to be there in purgatory, we are all called to pray for the sake of those souls in purgatory still waiting for the complete expiation and purification from all of their sins and their residual evils, that had prevented them from being completely reunited with God.
We are praying for them because they cannot pray for themselves. And in fact, the saints are also constantly, daily, praying for all these holy souls that have yet to be able to join them in the glory of Heaven. We should also pray for them because we are after all, members of the same Church of God. If one part of the Body of Christ, the Church suffers hurt, then it is natural for all the other parts to feel the hurt and pain as well. Therefore, today, and throughout this whole month, as Pope Francis has recently extended the plenary indulgences for the holy souls in purgatory by the authority of the Church, let us all pray for the holy souls in purgatory, for all the faithful departed, and offer intentions in the Holy Mass for them, that the priests may offer the Mass for their sake.
Do not forget, brothers and sisters, that we ourselves are still on the journey as well. Because of that, we should keep in mind the sufferings of the holy souls in purgatory as a reminder that we ourselves must live as holy a life as possible in this world. Let us all distance ourselves from wickedness and sin, and repent from our sinful ways as soon as possible, if not now. Remember that every sins that we have, unrepented and unforgiven, will be judged against us on the day of the particular judgment when we die and pass on from this world, and also at the final judgment.
Let us pray for the holy souls in purgatory, so that one day, when we too are probably in purgatory ourselves, these holy souls who have gone before us to Heaven will then in turn pray for us, remembering our love and fraternal kindness, as brothers and sisters in the same Lord, that we, although separated between this world and purgatory, our bonds of faith in Christ remain the same, and remain strong as always. Let us all ask God for His mercy and compassion, on all of us, and on all those who are still now enduring the flames of purgatory. May God lead them all into His heavenly glory, in His good time, and by His enduring love for all of them. Amen.