All Souls’ Day/Dia de los Muertos: Those whom you gave me are your gift to me

November 2, 2021

I would propose to you this evening a different way to appreciate our day of the Dead.

For too long, the Catholic Church has focused on our human sins which, the people of the Middle Ages believed would prevent us from entering the presence of God without some experience to purify ourselves before entering God’s eternal presence.

The piety and theology of those times invented a place called purgatory.  How long we were or are to stay there was not clear.  But indulgences were granted by the Church after certain prayers were prayed with so many days or years of indulgences, to lower our amount of time there.

I do not dismiss the fact that all of us are sinners.  After all, God created [us] as human and incomplete, but — this is important — also, in good time, God placed Jesus with us, to bring us back to God, accomplished by his life, death and resurrection.

With the help of the Holy Spirit and tending to our own spiritual lives, God will make sure we get back to him.

It is not up to us to judge or begrudge the mercy of God toward any human being.  Neither do we have to make a place where something needs to be done for us, especially if the mercy and compassion of God is given to us gratuitously — free, no strings attached.

I still hear people’s voices pray… “for all the souls in purgatory and especially for the most forgotten souls in purgatory.”  What kind of a God would forget souls in purgatory?

“Forgotten” — a very vengeful God in whom I do not believe.

Could we ever be such a horrible sinner — even a Josef Stalin and an Adolph Hitler has some redeeming qualities.

I believe that we err when we oversimplify the mystery of life, the mystery of God, and the mystery of love.  Especially when we try to reduce it to some human understanding of what is just or fair.  As I have often said, “fairness is not part of Jesus’ vocabulary, but mercy, compassion, and forgiveness are.”

Remember that there is no reference to a “purgatory” in the Christian scriptures.

Tonight, it would be good for us to listen to some words of Jesus: in a prayer to his Father, Jesus prayed.

“Father, those whom you gave me are your gift to me.  I wish that where I am, they also may be with me.”

In tonight’s Gospel (John 17:24-26, John’s sixth chapter), Jesus says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me and I will not reject anyone who comes to me… the will of the Father is that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but I should raise it on the last day.”

(John 6:37-40)

We also [have] the words from the Ancient Old Testament Book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them.”  Whatever people say about them, “they are in peace.”

I rely upon what St. Paul said tonight: “For a dead person has been absolved from sin.  If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him.”

So, I will rely upon the unencumbered mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness of God to welcome me immediately upon my death and I hope that you will as well.

So, let us take a few minutes now in silence and remember the members of our families and our good friends.  May they all be with God and may all of us some day [be with God as well].

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