A popular rallying chant at faith-renewal sessions affirms that “When Jesus say ‘yes’ nobody can say no!”.
It’s the call of the Shema in the Word broken for our sustenance and understanding today and every day. We’re urged to wisely ‘keep’ all the laws and direction which would give us long life, and help us to grow and prosper. These are not oppressive laws but a framework for living which leads to the fulfilment of God’s Promise to His people. Additionally, the life we’re called to embrace is only partially as mortal beings. When we die, Psalm 130, De Profundis – Out of the Depths yields the promise of a more complete realisation of how much we’re loved.
It is at that moment of transition from mortal life to the higher calling of spiritual fulfilment with God, that the commandment to love—God, self and neighbour—may suddenly gain real meaning when heart, soul and strength meet the God who is refuge, shield, saviour and stronghold. It is then that the ‘forever’ God, whose promise to save those who approach Him through the eternal intercessor Jesus, gains additional meaning in our hearts and minds. For many of us, now is the time when we pray and plead for the safe passage of the souls of our dearly departed.
The Church understands this angst and longing for the well-being of the souls of our loved ones. Whatever the human perception of degrees of flaw, faithlessness or faithfulness, at physical death our cultural practices and religious rituals reflect our concern with the quality of the “other life”. During the month of November, all the faithful are particularly encouraged to meditate on the Communion of Saints. This is the frame of reference and understanding by which we, saints all on the journey towards perfection, pray with and for the faithful who have already reached heaven (Church Triumphant), the faithful departed who are still expiating their sins in Purgatory (Church Suffering) and of the pilgrim faithful here on earth (Church Militant).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1475, explains: “In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” Comforting, isn’t it?
Even as we dry our homes after the recent floods and help our neighbours regain their balance, many would have flocked to the cemeteries to clean gravesites, place flowers and light candles on November 1. Parish churches would have welcomed all for the customary celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation, honouring all those faithful in Heaven. This duty has found expression not only in public and private prayers but especially in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the repose of souls.
Throughout November, the Church prays for all who are in the purifying fires of Purgatory, waiting for the day when they will join the company of the saints in Heaven. We relieve their suffering through our prayers and penance, even gaining indulgences. After these souls in Purgatory are in Heaven, they will intercede for us.
Let us then, in love, develop prayerful habits, for ourselves and others, remembering our eternal destiny. When we understand and love better, we draw closer to God’s Kingdom, no more questions necessary.