Fr. Kevin Hale on Apocalypse, Purgatory, & Praying for the Dead

Following on from my post yesterday on praying for the dead, Fr. Kevin's homily at Mass today shone more light on the subject:

If you go think back over the history of the film industry over the last fifty years, in every decade there has been an ever increasing number of films made about the end of the world, and they often contain the word Apocalypse. The genre has included everything from the world being overtaken by aliens, to global diseases obliterating mankind, to natural disasters of every kind. For the people in the Philippines – our brothers and sister in the Faith – the events of last weekend will have been nothing less than apocalyptic for them. For the Church at this time, the end of the year brings with it thoughts of the end of the world: apocalypse. It’s a Greek word that means uncovering; rather in the same way that the Latin equivalent – revelation – means also an unveiling, a taking away of the veil. Something of great significance is being disclosed to us; that is, the full significance of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead and what the implications are for us.

So the Readings and prayers at this time are full of references to apocalyptic events: the disintegration of the world, the destruction of earthly temples, the resurrection of the body, life everlasting. To prepare us for all this, the Church asks us to adopt an attitude of purification. The need for purification in our lives is something even those without any religious faith see as important: detox regimes and other body-pampering therapies have the aim of trying to restore our bodies to a more healthy, natural state. Our spiritual nature – our soul - needs this too, and hence the evolving of those spiritual exercises which have the aim of bringing body and soul into a healthier state, a more perfect harmony.

Our Catholic faith is big on the need for this purification: it is achieved through penance and mortification during our life and after death this purification is called Purgatory. This is often a misunderstood place; it isn’t some kind of lesser hell, but a place of mercy, love and desire for God. It is a reality which also reminds us to pray for our loved-ones - the Faithful Departed - constantly.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
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 (CCC 1031).
This is a quite amazing revelation, that the mercy and forgiveness of God is extended to us even after we have died, provided of course, we don’t die in a state of complete alienation from God (or in unrepented mortal sin, as we call it). This is the teaching of the Bible, as when we read in the Old Testament the account of the life of Judas Maccabeus, who sent an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem for an atonement sacrifice to be offered for those soldiers who had fallen in battle. The inspired writer comment that this was a noble act, inspired by a faith in the Resurrection. In the New Testament too, St Paul teaches that nothing impure can enter into the presence of God. Blessed John Henry Newman would write in his hymn: Help Lord the souls that thou hast made, the souls to Thee so dear. In prison for the debt unpaid, of sins committed here.

This same faith moves us to have Masses offered for our departed relatives, friends and benefactors when they die, and around the time of their anniversaries. The Mass, is the power and prayer of Christ to the Father for the salvation of a particular person on earth, or the souls in Purgatory. Our ambition in this life should be not only to get to heaven, but to by-pass the possibility of Purgatory, so that we can enjoy the life of God and Heaven immediately after this brief sojourn on earth. We can do this by constant attention to our lives, through penance, and through that daily purification of lives that are redeemed and won by Christ. Whenever we attempt exercises of purification for ourselves and for the Holy Souls, we will have the experience of believing we have done something worthy and meritorious, not for self, but for love of God and our loved-one.

We ask Mary to assist as, as Mothers do, in striving for perfection and encouraging us not to flag in the race for the prize of eternal life.


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