Wednesday, 2 November 2022 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today after the All Saints’ Day, we commemorate with solemn remembrance the occasion of All Souls’ Day. This day we remember all those holy souls in purgatory, all those who have departed from this world and have yet to deserve the glory of Heaven. While we do not know exactly the fate of the souls of the dead, except those whom by virtue of their great and faithful living and by careful investigation and scrutiny of the Church, had been declared officially as saints and therefore meriting the beatific vision of Heaven, the other souls of the faithful generally will end up in purgatory, except of course those who have willingly and consistently rejected God, and refused to repent from their sins and wickedness.

Those who have rejected the Lord, refused His mercy and kindness, those who committed mortal sins and refused to repent from them, all these had closed the doors of salvation upon themselves. It was not God Who desired their destruction, as history had proven again and again how God wanted and desired for each and every one of us, His beloved children and people, to be reconciled and returned, reunited and brought back to His Presence. He reached out even to the most stubborn, wicked and unworthy amongst us, and some of them had a change of heart, and were saved. Some of them even became saints later on, and were great examples for us to follow Yet, many others continued to resist the Lord’s efforts, hardened their hearts and minds, and consequently, they were deemed unworthy at the particular judgment upon their passing from this world, and were sent to hell.

Mentioning this matter of judgment, this is where we need to know that according to the Church teachings, there are two types of judgment, namely the particular judgment that happens for every single one of us, at the moment when our earthly existence ends, and where we will be judged, and has been judged, for those who had gone before us, to three possibilities, either of Heaven, or purgatory, or hell. The last and final, general judgment, also known as the Last Judgment will then take place at the very end of time as the Scriptures highlighted, and that will determine our eternal fate. Yet, those who have been condemned to hell has no way out, as they had rejected God and refused to be reconciled to Him, and will be judged unworthy of God, and cast out of His Presence. And those who are in purgatory and Heaven, all will be considered worthy and good, and will enjoy forever the eternal joy of the Lord and with God.

Now, we have to understand then what purgatory is all about, as this commemoration today of All Souls’ Day is about all the faithful departed, those who are not yet worthy of God like the saints and blesseds, and yet, those that have not openly rejected the Lord and refused to repent to the very end. We have to first understand that God is perfect and all good in nature, and sin as evil and imperfection born out of disobedience against Him and perversion of His Law and truth has no place in His Presence. Therefore, sinners as we are, unless our sins are mostly overcome and minuscule in nature due to our many merits and righteousness, which would then have merited us straight entry into Heaven as what happened to the saints and blesseds, or for martyrs who shed their blood and laid down their lives for the sake of their faith and God, then for most of us, we are likely to end up in purgatory.

Purgatory is a place where the souls of the faithful dead remain for a time before they are finally allowed to go to Heaven and enjoy there the same beatific vision and joy together with the saints, blesseds and other martyrs, and other holy men and women whom God deemed already worthy of Heaven. Purgatory is a place where those who were already destined to Heaven have to wait because their lingering sins and all those that prevented them from coming near to God are cleansed from them. And contrary to popular belief, purgatory is not a place where the holy souls are tortured by fire, as where the term ‘flames of purgatory’ originated from. In truth, the holy souls in purgatory do suffer, but they suffer from the ‘purifying flames’ of the Spirit, and also from the regret of the sins that they had committed, and yet unforgiven.

In the Gospel, the Lord mentioned to His disciples how when two people were on their way to court, they should try their best to resolve their differences and be reconciled, or else, when the judgment comes, those who have to suffer the penalty, jail and all, will have to endure them and will not end until they have paid back every single debt and settle every single punishments they deserve. In the same way therefore, everyone has to account for all the sins they committed, which had not been forgiven by God and for which they had not been pardoned, before they can enjoy the eternal bliss, happiness and joy of Heaven. Those holy souls in purgatory are therefore still suffering and waiting for the time when the Lord will finally lead them into His heavenly glory at the end of their time there.

The greater the sins one have, the longer it is that they had to endure in purgatory, however, as the Church taught us and from Scriptural evidences, prayers for the dead by us the living and also by the intercession of the saints do matter. Through our prayers for the holy souls in purgatory, God may be moved to show mercy to them, and this may shorten the time that those souls have to endure in purgatory, by the virtues of the faith that we, the living and the saints have, and by the love which we show to those souls who are now suffering and enduring trials and purification in purgatory. And we must not forget that just as I mentioned at All Saints’ celebration yesterday, the saints, blesseds, holy men and women of God in Heaven, and also the holy souls in purgatory are part of one Church of God, the Universal Church.

The holy souls in purgatory are part of the Church Suffering just as we are part of the Church Militant, still living and enduring the hardships and challenges of this world, and just as the saints, blesseds and all those already in heavenly glory are part of the Church Triumphant. The whole entire Church are united in purpose, love and communion, by our sharing in the same Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, and by our common baptism. And those who are not baptised yet, and those who have not yet known God are also open to salvation because it was not by their fault that they did not know God or His truth. Those holy souls in purgatory therefore include all those Christians and even non-Christians whom God deemed to be worthy of Him, and just having the venial sins and unforgiven faults that prevented them from coming to Heaven right away.

And as members of the same Church of God, each one of us therefore should not ignore those holy souls in purgatory, our own fellow brothers and sisters, who are in need of our help and company. Let us all not forget that as Christians, we have been taught by God to love one another just as we love God and ourselves. We must not be selfish and thinking of only our own salvation. Just as much as we are supposed to love our brothers and sisters in this world, helping those who are needy and those who are lacking in love and care, hence, we should also love and show our care for the holy souls in purgatory as well. Some of them are those whom we know, our own departed family members, relatives, friends and other loved ones.

And some of these holy souls in purgatory may have no one at all to pray for them. They also cannot pray for themselves, and depend on us and the saints to intercede for them. Therefore, this day, we should keep in mind just as we pray for the souls of our beloved ones who have departed before us, that we also commit to our prayers all the holy souls in purgatory who have no one praying for them. Let us not forget that we too one day will come into the end of our earthly existence, as death is something that all of us mortal beings have to experience and endure, and we may ourselves end up in purgatory. If we do not want to pray for those who are now suffering in purgatory, then what if that very same fate awaits us as well, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Therefore, today’s All Souls’ Day commemoration should also serve as a kind reminder to all of us that we are all called to lives that are more appropriate and worthy of God as Christians, that is as those whom God has called to be one of His own people, to be His flock, followers and disciples. To us, through His Church, Apostles and disciples, God has revealed His truth and love, and therefore, we are expected to lead a true Christian living and faith, and be truly faithful in all things, in our every words, actions and deeds, and not only just in mere appearances only. We have to be sincere and genuine in how we live our faith, if we have not done so.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves to righteous and virtuous Christian living from now on, and let us all be good examples of faith to one another, that we are always reminded of our mortality and our own eventual fate. If we seek to go to Heaven, then we should really do our very best to live our lives in accordance to what God has taught us to do through His Church and through His disciples. Let us all pray for our predecessors, the holy souls in purgatory, that God may show mercy upon them and bring them into the glory of Heaven as He wills it. May God bless all the holy souls in purgatory, and all of us here still living in this world. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later after Jesus healed the servant of a captain in Capernaum, He went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us; God, has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Romans 5 : 5-11

And hope does not disappoint us, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; and we have become just, through His Blood. With much more reason now He will save us from any condemnation. Once enemies, we have been reconciled with God through the death of His Son; with much more reason, now we may be saved, through His life.

Not only that, but we even boast in God because of Christ Jesus, our Lord, through Whom we have been reconciled.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 7-9, 13-14

YHVH is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? YHVH is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of YHVH, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His Sanctuary.

Hear my voice when I call, o YHVH, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You, “I seek Your face, o YHVH.” Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my protector, do not reject me; abandon me not, o God my Saviour!

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of YHVH in the land of the living. Trust in YHVH, be strong and courageous, yes, put your hope in YHVH!

Wednesday, 2 November 2022 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Isaiah 25 : 6-9

On this mountain YHVH Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain He will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more.

The Lord YHVH will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; He will take away the humiliation of His people all over the world : for YHVH has spoken. On that day you will say : This is our God. We have waited for Him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today together as the Universal Church we all celebrate with all the glorious saints in Heaven the occasion of the Solemnity of All Saints, as we rejoice on this All Saints’ Day. On this All Saints Day, we rejoice in the glory of all the saints, both the ones whose names and lives are known to us, as well as the many other innumerable holy men and women of God out there who are saints, and yet not known to us. There are also all those other holy men and women who have deserved the glory of Heaven, and yet have not been named and declared saints yet, because of various circumstances. Today, as we rejoice on this All Saints’ Day, we remember all those whom I had mentioned, the ones who have lived their lives worthily of God.

Who are the saints? First of all we have to understand the role that the saints play in the history of our salvation and in the Church. The saints are all those holy men and women of God who have been deemed by the Church after a period of scrutiny and exploration, as worthy of God and as deserving of the glory of Heaven. The process of the declaration of someone as Saint is one that is usually lengthy one, as one went from being a Servant of God, Venerable, and then Blessed or Beatus and finally Saint. All those things are meant to highlight that being a Saint means that the person, his or her life and actions are truly worthy of God and of being exemplary Christians. This is to ensure that the person mentioned as saints are truly worthy of veneration and honour, and being followed by other Christians as good role models and inspirations.

And then, we must understand also that the saints are not divine beings or gods, or divinities, as what some others might and may still misunderstand about this particular practice of the Church. Quite a few people both inside and outside the Church have the misunderstanding and misconception thinking that we worship the saints. Yet, that is a very wrong way of seeing how we Christians venerate the saints and blesseds since the very beginning of the Church. Ever since the earliest days of the Church, the faithful Christians have always venerated important members of the Church who have been martyred for their faith, or have led exemplary lives, venerating them as great role models and inspirations, and beings worthy of Heaven, to inspire them in their own lives.

That is in essence what saints are and how they are significant for us all. The saints are our role models and inspirations, who by their words, actions and deeds have been deemed by the Church and the authorities of the magisterium to be worthy of God’s grace and eternal kingdom, to experience the beatific vision of Heaven prior to the Last Judgment, and are now in Heaven with God and His Angels. Christians and even the Jewish people of the past believed in the life after death, and the existence of the world to come, and the saints are those who have been welcomed to enter into God’s heavenly Presence, to enjoy the fruits of their labour and faithful life. And when we venerate those saints, we honour them for all that they had done out of faith and love for God.

We must understand that veneration does not equal adoration and worship or ‘latria’. Those are reserved for God and God alone. Not even Mary, the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven by virtue of her Divine Motherhood, is to be worshipped and adored. On the contrary, to her we accord the greatest honour and veneration or also known as ‘hyperdulia’ among all the other saints and beings, as the one who bore the Messiah or Saviour of the world in her, and who is our greatest intercessor, ever being present by her Son’s side in Heaven, pleading for our sake before Him. To Mary we accord the greatest of veneration, but that still does not equate to adoration and worship that we only give to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, the one and only True God.

Then to St. Joseph we accord the next greatest honour of ‘protodulia’ which accords him the first of honour among all the saints just after Mary, her spouse. St. Joseph as the foster-father of the Lord and the Protector of the Universal Church has that place of honour and also because of his virtuous life, which are again great inspiration, examples and role models for each one of us as Christians. Then the other saints and blesseds also have their own unique life stories and examples which we can emulate and follow in our own lives. That is why we venerate them, as we are all inspired by their examples, and wanting to follow them, and why we adopt their names as our baptismal names as well. And not only that, as we also believe that the saints are already in the presence of God in Heaven, we also ask the saints for their help and intercession.

Now, what we need to realise is also that the saints although they are no longer physically with us, they are still very much part of the Church. The saints, blesseds and all the other holy men and women of God already in Heaven and have not yet been officially recognised by the Church as saints, are all parts of the same Church of God, as the Church Triumphant. Meanwhile, all of us still living in this world are the Church Militant, those who are still struggling and enduring the challenges and trials of this world daily. Then the Church is completed by all those souls who have departed from this world and yet, they are not yet worthy of Heaven, and are enduring the purifying flames of purgatory, the Church Suffering. Those holy souls in purgatory will be remembered tomorrow in the All Souls’ Day.

Altogether, the Church Triumphant, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering all form a united Church of God, all united through the indivisible link and union through the common Communion in Christ. All of us are united together as one Church, and as such, we are united in prayer for each other. The saints and blesseds have no more need for our prayers, but they are always praying for us in this world, the Church Militant, as well as for the ones who are still suffering in the purgatory, the Church Suffering. We ourselves as those who are in this world can also pray for those in purgatory. We can see how each and every one of us are still united as one Church, and just as we are still connected to each other, we should also be inspired to follow the examples of the saints in our respective lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been shown the means and the ways for us to follow the Lord faithfully as Christians. As we heard in our first reading today from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, the vision of St. John revealed to us the glory of the innumerable saints of God, who in the vision had appeared in their pure white garment, all made white by washing in the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God. The martyrs suffered at the hands of their persecutors and those who oppressed them, but they remained resolute and firm in living their lives faithfully, in standing up to their Christian vocations and missions, and enduring whatever persecutions with grace and faith. Some of them had to shed their blood and some perished, but even those who did not perish, had to endure martyrdom of sorts, as they were persecuted and had to face hardships and challenges.

They practiced what the Lord had told them all to do as we heard in our Gospel passage today on the Beatitudes, or the Eight Beatitudes, in which the Lord listed down all the behaviours and attitudes that are truly worthy of Him, and praised all those who have done according to those ways. Essentially through the Eight Beatitudes, the Lord has called on all of us as Christians to be His true disciples, as those who are poor in spirit, for those who are sorrowful and suffering for their faith, for those who are gentle and kind, and for those who hunger, thirst and desire for justice, for those who show mercy to others, for those who are pure and virtuous at heart, for those who advance and work towards peace and help others to seek peace, and for all those who are persecuted. All of those are essentially what we are expected to do as Christians in our own daily living.

Now, if we are not sure how and where to start in this regard, we must not be disheartened or give up the effort before we even start it. That is precisely why we have the saints to inspire us and to show us the way how we should live our lives. Each and every one of them had distinct and unique circumstances that some may in one way or another inspire us in our respective lives and journey, to be our compass and guidance in how we are to practice our faith in life. Each and every one of us are called and constantly reminded of the many good actions and deeds of our holy predecessors, and we should do the same. The question is, are we all willing to commit ourselves to this cause that the Lord had called us to do? Are we willing to put the effort to transform our lives from one that is based on worldliness and wickedness into one of virtue and adherence to God’s ways?

It is important that as Christians we have to live our lives worthily of the Lord, doing whatever we can to uphold our Christian faith and actions, in each and every possible moments like what the saints had done. But at the same time we must also have the correct understanding of what the saints are and how they can help and lead us on the right path. Sadly, even within the Church there are still many people, among the faithful who misunderstood the meaning of sainthood, and conflating it with idolatry, which resulted in the so-called popular devotions and faith among the people becoming corrupted with the worship and adoration of the saints instead of a proper veneration. Not only that, but those same people end up depending on the saints and hoping that the saints would solve all of their issues and problems, and that by praying to them everything they were troubled with would magically and immediately be solved.

That is why we have to correct our wrong or mistaken understanding and knowledge about the saints, should we have any of them. And we should also encourage ourselves on this Solemnity of All Saints, that each one of us will no longer be idle and be ignorant in the living of our faith. Instead, we should be more active and involved in being true and devout Christians starting this very moment, being inspired by the many examples of our holy predecessors, the saints and blesseds we have among the Church Triumphant. We as the Church Militant are reminded that we are still facing the trials, struggles and challenges that can prevent us and lead us astray from reaching the path towards God and His salvation. We cannot let the temptations of worldly glory and fame to make us abandon these struggles, and as long as we keep our focus on the Lord and strengthened by the courage and examples of His saints, we surely can find a way to live worthily of God.

May the Lord continue to strengthen and guide us in all of our lives, and may He, through His saints, constantly inspire and encourage us that we too may be holy just as those saints had led holy and worthy lives. May God be with us always and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours. All the Holy Saints of God, holy men and women who have glorified the Lord by your lives, all of you who are now with God in Heaven, pray for us sinners! Pray for the sake of all your brethren still living and struggling in this world who are in dire need of God’s mercy, love and strength. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”