Is 25: 6-9; Rom 6: 3-9; Jn 6: 37-40
A man arrives at the Pearly Gates and finds that St. Peter is not there, but a computer terminal is sitting next to the arch. He walks up to it and sees “Welcome to http://www.Heaven.com. Please enter your User ID and Password to continue.” He doesn’t have either, but underneath the fields is a small line reading: “Forgot your ID or Password? Click Here.” So he does. Up pops a screen which reads, “Please enter at least two of the following, and your password and ID will be e-mailed to you.” The fields include “Name,” “Date of birth,” “Date of death,” and “Favorite Food.” The man enters his name and date of birth, and clicks “Submit.”
Up pops another screen which reads, “We are sorry, we did not find a match in our database. Would you like to try in our sister website: www.purgatory.com? So the man clicks the button marked “Yes.” A long and detailed form appears on the screen, and the man spends some time filling it out. Then he clicks the “Submit” button. Now he is faced with a screen reading, “We are sorry, this service is temporarily unavailable; please try again later.” There is a button marked “Back.” He clicks it. A new page appears. It reads, “Welcome to www.hell.com . We don’t need your user id or password. We are glad that you are here.
Dear Friends! This is a day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone to their eternal reward, and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification. From time immemorial, people of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul, and have prayed for the dead. The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release.
All Christians believe in the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Purgatory is not mentioned as one of the “last things” because, strictly speaking, purgatory is a part of heaven. Purgatory is the remedial class for heaven-bound souls. Souls who go to purgatory are those who have been judged worthy of heaven, but not straightaway. They still need some purification (purgation) before they are ready for heaven because, according to Revelation 21:27, “nothing unclean shall enter it.”
Some Christians have a problem with the teaching on purgatory because purgatory is not mentioned by name in the Bible. Yet the same Christians believe in the Trinity even though the “Trinity” is not mentioned by name in the Bible. We arrive at the doctrine on purgatory the same way we arrive at the doctrine on the Trinity, by making a logical inference from what God has explicitly revealed.
Even though officially Catholics believe in purgatory and Protestants do not, unofficially almost everyone seems to believe in an interim state of purification before heaven. When we lose loved ones, Catholics and Protestants alike pray for the dead. We all say, “May their souls rest in peace.” Now just ask yourself: If the souls of are in hell, why pray for them? Our prayers cannot help souls in hell. And if they are in heaven, why pray for them? Our prayers cannot help those in heaven either. They are already in heaven. Any sort of prayer for the dead has meaning insofar as the souls of the dead are in an interim state where they have not yet reached perfect union and peace with God, and where our prayers can help them get there. That is purgatory.
In the feast of All Souls we pray for the souls of the faithful departed who are being purified in purgatory. In this we profess our belief that, just as God has not stopped loving these poor souls because of their imperfections, neither have we. For us the belief in purgatory is Good News: even though we may not in this life be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) we can still hold fast to the hope that there are mansions for us in the kingdom of heaven.
At the end of every funeral the minister greets the congregation using similar texts: “Trusting in God, we have prayed together for … and now we come to the last farewell. There is sadness in parting, but we take comfort in the hope that we one day we shall see …N. again and enjoy his/her friendship. Although this congregation will disperse in sorrow, the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of his kingdom….”
If we believe that God has loved us and is loving us now, is it not logical, that God will continue to love us even after death? If we believe that God has blessed us and is continuing to bless us now, why would we imagine that God would stop blessing us even when our life here comes to an end? Today we remember and pray for our beloved family members and friends who have gone before us in death. We claim in the words of the German proverb which says, “Those who live in Christ will never see each other for the last time.”