Saturday, November 2, 2013

Commemoration for the Souls of all the Faithful Departed

Quod fuimus, estis;
quod sumus, eritis.[1]

Commemoration for the Souls of all the Faithful Departed
Parish of Saint Pius X (Loudonville, NY-Extraordinary Form)
Parish of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Union Street)

November 2nd, 2013
Rev. Michael Taylor

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie,
My heart like ashes, crushed and dry,
Assist me when I die.[2]

            Death is always a tragedy. No matter whether it comes after a long and fulfilled span of days or a life horrifically cut short, death is always a tragedy. Even though we as Christians know that those who had faith in Christ Jesus and die in his good grace will be raised to life again, their absence is felt in the very marrow of our bones, and our lives feel poorer then before they died. The harshness of death reminds us that we were not meant to die, that sin, and its price of death,[3] was not meant for man.[4] This being said, it makes our belief in Purgatory difficult.[5] Often times, well meaning people at funerals will, as a mean of comforting, tell the grieving that their loved one is already in heaven. Other times, the ancient Roman dictum, de mortuis, nil nisi bonum [of the dead, (say) nothing but good)], seems good advice, and to say a loved one is in Purgatory would seem to be remembering the ill of their life rather than all the good they meant to our own lives. Yet let us pause for a moment, and take today’s commemoration as a opportunity for a more personal reflection.
            I sit here, and I find I am asking myself the question, if I were to die today, would I be ready to stand before the throne of God? When I look throughout sacred scripture, I find verses that trouble my false sense of tranquility. In the Old Testament, the Lord God is constantly telling Israel, you shall be holy, for I the Lord thy God am holy.[6] Jesus, in his sermon on the mount says, you, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.[7] Still further, Saint Peter emphasizes since Christ is the one who called us, and that as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct [8] and the beloved apostle says, he who commits sin is of the devil.[9] With all these things being written down, how could I feel at ease? Could I stand before the King, and proclaim myself clean? Pure of heart?
            While it is true that I desire to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind,[10] I must confess that there are times I am rather slothful in my spiritual life. There are times were I am apathetic at mass, my mind wondering. There are times when I would rather spend hours on television or mindless browsing of the internet than to take time in prayer, contemplation, spiritual reading, and learning my faith. There are many things which I find myself giving more attention to than my relationship with Jesus Christ.
            While it is true that I strive to love my neighbor as myself [11] I must admit there are times when I am jealous of those around me. There are times when I allow greed to cloud my ability to deal charitably with those for whom I am supposed to love the most. I have lied, gossiped and slandered other’s good names. I have lusted. These are the things that are not proper for someone who is charged to love his neighbor as himself.
            While it is true that I do try and care for the poor and the suffering, I all too often find myself wasting my money on frivolities and wasteful creature comforts. So while there are days where I would hope to be numbered among the sheep that we see in Matthew 25 who cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the cold and the naked, there are many other days where I am fearful that I would be found among the goats, cast off from the presence of God for all eternity.
            And yet I am not without hope. For I know that a contrite, and broken heart [12] the Lord will not spurn. I know that to those who ask for his mercy and forgiveness, there is hope of redemption. If I can see that there are parts of myself that are not yet worthy to stand before the throne of God, hidden as they might be from you all here, is it not possible then to say that there are parts of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, which are not yet ready to stand before God? If this is true, than Purgatory is not punishment, but proof of God’s mercy overflowing. Where I have, through human frailty, stained my soul with the sins of pride, lust, gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth, God allows me the chance to cleanse my soul once again. He does this so that I might stand before the throne of the Lamb by whose blood I am redeemed, clothed in a garment as white as the one I received on the day of my baptism, of a dignity worthy of the wedding feast of heaven. Thus we, in awe of God’s abundant mercy, pray for the faithful departed.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.
May they rest in peace. Amen
And may their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

[1] “As we were, you are. As we are, you will be.” A memento mori that hangs upon the entry to the Capuchin church in Rome, Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
[2] Taken from the Dies Irae sequence which is used for Requiem masses in the Extraordinary Form.
[3] Cf. Rom 6.23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
[4] Cf. Wis 1.13: Because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.
[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§1030-1032: 1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031:The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned [cf. Council of Florence (1439); Council of Trent (1563); Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336). The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire [cf. I Cor 3.15; I Pet 1.7]:

“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come” [St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues; cf. Mt 12.31].
1032: This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” [II Macc 12.46]. From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God [cf. Council of Lyons II (1274). The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them [St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in I Cor; Job 1.5].”
[6] Leviticus 19.2
[7] Matthew 5.48
[8] I Peter 1.15
[9] I John 3.8
[10] Matthew 22.37
[11] Matthew 22.39
[12] Psalm 51.17

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