Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, following the Usus Antiquior or the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite of the Holy Mass, we celebrate the commemoration of all the faithful departed, or the celebration of All Souls’ Day. We therefore today remember all of our loved ones and indeed, all of our fellow brothers and sisters who have gone before us into the afterlife.
The souls of the dead departed from their bodies, and to many of us, death seems like to be very dreadful and vile indeed. And that is why so many people feared death, as they see it as the separation from what is dear to them in the world, from all of their loved ones and from all of their possessions, indeed, from everything that they were and from everyone they ever knew.
Or so it seems. We often mourn at death because we do not understand death, and we often do not know that what we see as death, is not an eternal separation or indeed even as something to be dreaded at all. For some of us, we cannot endure death because we fear losing what we have in this life, our possessions and our ties to the things of this world. And then for some, we see death as something evil and scary, as how it was often portrayed to us.
What is death? Death is, as mentioned, the sting of sin, and death is the consequence of sin. Death is never meant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we were created by God in perfection, intended to enjoy forever the bliss of life and harmony, with the Lord in complete and unadulterated love. Instead, men chose to follow their own path, and to listen to the lies of Satan, and thus sinned.
Sin is disobedience and rebellion against God’s will, against God who is love and who is life. As He is the source of life, when we rebelled against the Lord, we have been tainted by sin and therefore being cast off from Life itself, having no life in us. Hence, even though the breath of life which God had given us is within us, but the life we have in this world is temporary, and is bound to end one day, at the Lord’s time and choosing.
Yes, we are all mere mortals, and the life within us depends on God, who gives and takes Life as He pleases. And yet, this life which we have is in fact an opportunity for us all to atone and repent from our sinfulness. And the Lord Himself has presented us with a new hope and guidance, by the sending of His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ into this world.
Why is this so? That is because our Lord Jesus Christ offers us a new life, that is life in Him, the Lord of Life. He has life in Him as given to Him by His Father, and He is the Bread of Life who came down from heaven. Why is this allusion to food, the Bread of Life? Because Christ Himself had offered His own flesh and blood to become the very food and drink that gives us new life and nourishes us.
This food and drink is the food that gives us new life, not the life that is still subjected to the power of death, but a new life that is free from the depredations of death. And Jesus offered us this Bread and this Wine, His own Body and Blood, to be part of us, when we receive them with faith, so that we who share in His gifts through the sacrifice He made on the cross, gain everlasting life through Him.
Our mortal existence in this world may come to an end, but we have been assured the final victory against death, as the Lord Himself had conquered death through His own resurrection from the dead. And that resurrection is our hope, because through it we know that there is escape from death, and it will not have the final say against us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are three fates awaiting the souls when they depart from this earthly life. If they are wicked in life, disobeying the Lord and refusing to listen to His calling, and even refusing to repent and believe in Him, committing evil in life, then hell is their lot. Hell that is the total separation and rift from the love of God, without hope of escape and salvation. No amount of help or prayer will help souls that have been condemned to hell for their irredeemable sins.
Meanwhile, the souls of the faithful will end up either in heaven or in Purgatory, depending on what they had done in life. If their lives had been exemplary in faith, filled with all forms of goodness and righteousness, then they merit the glories and joy of heaven straight away, and these are the saints, the holy men and women who keep their lives pure and worthy in the sight of God.
How about Purgatory, then? Purgatory is the place where the souls of the faithful dead, who has been faithful and devoted to God, and were found righteous, but still have the taints of serious sins on them. As such, they were not yet worthy of the fullness of glory of heaven, as the Lord dwells there, and in the presence of God, no sin should stand.
Therefore, the souls whose sins have not been completely purified have to wait in the Purgatory, suffering the consequences of their sins, the pain and sorrow of not being able to be with the Lord their God, and at the same time, being fully aware of the wickedness of their sins and shortcomings, which made them to end up in the Purgatory at the first place. They will indeed eventually proceed to heaven, but only after their sins had been absolved completely.
Today is therefore a reminder for us, on this feast of All Souls, that we have a clear choice in this life to follow the will of God and walk in His ways, or otherwise to follow the whims of our own desire and to listen to Satan and thus to sin. If we are not careful, and if our lives are filled with wickedness, then we may end up in hell, without hope of ever escaping it.
And the souls in Purgatory and their suffering there reminds us to lead a righteous life, free from even venial and seemingly minuscule and light sins. Even these may hamper us as we make our way towards the Lord. And the souls in Purgatory needs our prayer, as they cannot pray for their own sake. If we pray for the souls in Purgatory, we may obtain for them plenary or partial indulgence for the remission and absolution of their sins, so that hopefully they will be able to end their sufferings in Purgatory and proceed to the eternal glory in heaven.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us ask the holy saints and angels of God to pray, first to pray for the souls in Purgatory, that together with their prayers, our prayers for these poor souls may rise to the presence of God, and God in His mercy and love, may forgive them their sins and bring them into heaven to be with Him, having been made pure and blameless, so that they may not need to suffer anymore.
And finally, for them to also pray for us sinners who still walk in this world in this mortal life. That we may realise our sinfulness and mortality, and of the suffering of the souls in Purgatory, so that we may change our ways, avoiding and rejecting sins, that we may eventually be found worthy in heaven and that none of us will be lost to hell. May all the souls of the faithful dead in the Lord, find rest in peace and receive the eternal glory of everlasting heaven with Him. Amen.