Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All Souls Day Homily

Today, All Souls’ Day,
is a day of remembrance,
but also a day full of hope.

This time of year,
the Church bids us consider eternity.

Yesterday was the great feast of All Saints.
The saints give us hope—
We long to join their company;
And it is God’s will that we do so.

There are only two final destinations,
after this life:
Either we go to heaven—
and then we will be a saint—
Or we go to the other place.

What about purgatory?
Purgatory is not a destination—
No one spends eternity in purgatory.

It isn’t really a “place” at all,
but a process:
It’s a stopping point on the way.
Purgatory is the “mud room” of heaven;
It’s the saints’ finishing school.

Some tell me they’re a little afraid of purgatory—
They think of it in terms of punishment.

Our late, beloved holy father, John Paul,
taught us otherwise.
He said, before entering
the perfect glory of heaven,
“Every trace of attachment to evil
must be eliminated,
every imperfection of the soul corrected.

“Those who, after death,
exist in a state of purification,
are already in the love of Christ
who removes from them
the remnants of imperfection.”

They “are united both with the blessed
who already enjoy the fullness of eternal life,
and with us on this earth
on our way towards the Father's house.”

Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Nothing to be afraid of.

We might wonder, is there pain in purgatory?
C.S. Lewis said this:
If there’s pain in purgatory,
it’s the pain of having Christ so near—
ah, but still something holds us back.

Because it’s the pain of healing,
Lewis said, it’s pain we’ll welcome.

The healing isn’t just about
those who have died;
It helps heal us, the living, as well.
Sometimes people die,
and maybe we have
unfinished business with them.

Or maybe we wonder—
what will become of them
in their moment of judgment?

We might fear for them.
But thanks be to God,
our ability to help them
doesn’t end at their death!

Now, I’m going to say something
a little mind-bending.
Think about this:

You and I live in time:
one day follows another,
Past to present to future—right?

But God doesn’t live in time—
Time in no way limits God.

So, I have a cousin,
who died at his own hand.
What did he believe or understand,
at that moment?
I don’t know.

But when I pray for him now,
That prayer can help him,
not just after he died,
But anywhere along the course of his life!

No, I can’t “go back in time”—but God can!

So all those people
you’ve ever worried about:
Pray for them now—
And who knows just where
along the course of their lives,
God may choose to apply your prayers?

When we remember the dead this time of year,
we remember that our existence, on earth,
is but one slice of reality.

Naturally, we think it’s the most important,
Or the most real, slice of life.

But it’s not.
We’re on our way to the most important,
most real, dimension of life:
Life after this life—
Not only life-after-death,
but life-after-resurrection!

There’s so much more still ahead!

And this is why Christ came,
Christ died, and rose for us:
To open the path and lead us there.

The prophet Daniel foresaw it;
St. Paul rejoices because the Holy Spirit,
poured into our hearts,
makes us long—thirst—pant!—
for this destiny!

In the Eucharist,
we get just a taste of this reality!

Christ leads us there—
there’s nothing to be afraid of.

(Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Ps 42; Rom 5:5-11; John 6:37-40)


Rich Leonardi said...

Lovely homily, Father. I'm always struck by the catholicity of Lewis' beliefs. Not only did he frequent the Anglican rite of confession, but in one of his semi-autographical books, he receives communion from a maternal church figure (Mother "Kirch", if memory serves). I'd like to think that but for his "Ulster" background, he would have crossed the Tiber.

Father Martin Fox said...

Thank you for your compliment.

Yes, C.S. Lewis' relationship to the Catholic Church does strike me as so curious.

It seems odd to me that such an insightful man wouldn't have seen what we see. I can't help wondering if there wasn't some internal struggle that -- if he wrote about -- was never published.

I seem to recall there were papers that were either destroyed, or at least kept from public view; but I could be mistaken in that.

Rich Leonardi said...

Most biographers chalk it up to his being both a Protestant in heavily-Catholic Ireland and the son of a decided Unionist.

Ann Stidd said...

Had Lewis been Catholic, his writings likely would not have received nearly the exposure and public reception that they have (think Chesterton). Perhaps it was God's plan...

Thank you Father for the beautiful explanation of Purgatory. I've been searching for something exactly like that to share with an Evangelical friend who's starting to look a little more closely at Catholicism.