Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Final Purification of the Elect


These past two days have forced us to confront a reality which we normally avoid: the reality of death. By visiting cemeteries, we remember those who have gone before us. But remembering them, we also are reminded of the fact that we shall later be wherever they are now. Death for us inevitable because “through the disobedience of one man, sin entered into the world and together with sin entered death.” “Even though man’s nature is mortal, God has destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator, and entered the world as a consequence of sin.” (CCC, 1008.) Therefore, had Adam and Eve not sinned, we would not die. Had we not sinned, we would not die. “Death entered the world as a consequence of sin.”

How can death be a consequence of sin? God is the Creator and Source of life. In him, we live. In him, we move. In him, we have our being. In as much as sin separates us from the Lord, it separates us from him who is Life itself. And when we separate ourselves from Life, we have nothing but death. It is only in the Lord that we shall have life. Only in him do we live. In fact, this is what God desires for all of us. He does not want us to die because if he did, then why did he give us life? He wants us to live and that is why he calls us to turn back to him. So long as we are afflicted with sin, so long as we stay away from him, we shall never have life. It is only by living with him in heaven shall we have life to its fullest.

Therefore, in order to have life which is full and eternal, we have to be purified from sins. If Heaven is the communion of life and love between God and the angels and saints, sin has no place in it for in God there is no sin. The only way to enter into this communion of life and love is to be purified from everything that separates us from God. “Everyone who has this hope based on him (God) makes himself pure, as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) Thus, we strive to be purified from sin by repenting to the Lord and by acts of penance that make reparation for our sins. We cannot enter heaven unless we are totally purified of sin.

“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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect…” (CCC, 1030-1031) “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, so that they might be delivered from their sin.’  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. 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)” (CCC, 1032.) The teaching of the Church is very clear: “Not by weeping, but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead relieved." (St. John Chrysostom)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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