FIRST READING: Wisdom 3:1-9.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died. Their departure was considered a disaster, and their travel away from us ruin, but they are in peace. For even if in the sight of men they are punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having borne a little chastening, they will receive great good; because God tested them, and found them worthy of himself. He tested them like gold in the furnace, and he accepted them as a whole burnt offering. In the time of their visitation they will shine. They will run back and forth like sparks among stubble. They will judge nations and have dominion over peoples. The Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust him will understand truth. The faithful will live with him in love, because grace and mercy are with his chosen ones. The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
R/Yahweh is my shepherd;
I shall lack nothing.
SECOND READING: Romans 6:3-9
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him! The word of the Lord.
GOSPEL: John 6:37-40
All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day. This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The gospel of the Lord.
Yesterday’s Solemnity of All Saints gave us an opportunity to celebrate and rejoice in the fact that there are countless people who have gone before us who are now enjoying the glories of Heaven. These faithful souls lived lives that were grounded in God’s grace and have been fully purified of all sin. They now gaze at our good God face-to-face. Today, we commemorate the fact that many who die in a state of grace are not immediately ready to stand before the glorious throne of God and see Him face-to-face. The only way this is possible is if every sin and every attachment to sin is purged from our souls. We must have nothing but pure charity alive within us if we are to enter the eternal glories of Heaven. But how many people die in such a state? The Church, in her wisdom and holiness, has taught clearly through the centuries that when a person passes from this world to the next while still attached to less serious sin, they need to be fully purified in order to enter Heaven.
This is Purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “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, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” For some, Purgatory can be a frightening and even confusing thought. Why doesn’t God, in His infinite mercy, simply take all our loved ones who followed Him straight to Heaven? The answer is simple. He does! And the path for them to Heaven is this incredible mercy of their final purification. Purification of all attachment to sin within our soul is a mercy beyond what we can imagine. Through this final purification, God prepares the holy souls who have died for an eternity of joy. But this purification is necessary because God, in His love, does not want any soul to live eternally with even a minor attachment to sin. God wants us all free. The truth is that every sin on our soul, even the smallest one, is reason enough for us to be excluded from Heaven.
So Purgatory must be seen as a final mercy from God by which He lifts every last burden that keeps us from perfect love, so that our eternity will be one of utmost freedom and ecstasy. God wants us to be filled only with the purity of love forever. Thus, upon our death, we are graced to enter into a final and intense purification of every minor sin, so that when we see God in all His glory, we will see Him with the perfection to which we are called. Purgatory is a gift, a grace, a mercy. It will be painful to go through in the same way that overcoming any sin is painful. But the good fruit of freedom from sin makes every final purification we must endure worth it a hundredfold and more. Reflect, today, upon the spiritual truth that God wants us to be saints. If we are among those few who die in a state in which we are purified from every sin, then be assured that we have already completed our purgatory on earth. But if we or our loved ones are among the many who still hold some minor attachment to sin at the time of death, then rejoice that God is not done with us yet. Anticipate with much gratitude the final purification that awaits and look forward to the freedom that ultimately comes from that purification.
Together we pray: My merciful Lord, You desire that my soul and the souls of all your faithful be purified of every sin, even the smallest imperfection. I thank You for the mercy of Purgatory and pray that I will continually work toward that purification here and now. I pray, also, for all those who have gone before me and are still in need of these purifying fires. Pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be counted among the saints in Heaven. Our Merciful Father, I trust in YOU, that YOU alone will heal our illnesses and uncertainties, and set us free. May the souls of our faithful departed brethren rest in perfect peace, Amen. Lord, I thank YOU for giving us a wonderful, fruitful, and blessed Tuesday.