Dear Parish Family,
“Father, it’s been ages since I last heard about purgatory from the pulpit!” said one parishioner. “You really rocked me with that sermon!” said one senior. Yes, both an elderly man and a woman really used the phrase, “rocked me!” Is that a Jackson thing? Anyway, those were the kinds of comments I received after preaching on purgatory last Sunday. So, I thought I’d summarize a few of those points from the homily.
All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, is the day when we especially remember and pray for all our loved ones who have departed from this world, but still await the day when their souls will join the company of that great multitude which we remembered yesterday. Who are those people in your life? I shared with you someone from my family who had been married three different times and left a lot of heartache for many people, yet towards the end of his life, repented from his ways.
Before we can be fully united with God who is all-holy and Love itself, all that is not holy and all that is not love must be purged from us. Those things are not a part of who we are as made in the image of God. So, whether that transformation to our most authentic selves happens in this life or in that transitory dimension called purgatory is up to us.
The Catechism #1030 states this about the people we remember on All Souls’ Day: “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.”
There isn’t anyone in heaven who is not a saint! Purgatory, then, is simply that safety net by which we get to complete what was supposed to be our life’s goal on earth, that is, to be saints, saints through which the world can be guided to God. This is why God doesn’t want us to wait until heaven to be a saint, but wants us to be saints here and now. Your spouse, your children, and/or your parents need that power and love of God in their lives that God has charged you to give in his name. Your brothers and sisters, your friends, fellow parishioners, and co-workers need that transformative power and love of God in their lives that God has charged you to give in his name.
So, if purgatory is our safety net, if you will, make sure that your life’s goal isn’t just to make it purgatory. As they say, if you shoot for heaven, but get purgatory, you’re still alright. You’ll eventually get there. But if you just shoot for purgatory and miss…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. For the story about my first and only marathon as an analogy for purgatory, you’ll just have to listen to the homily in its entirety on our website: http://www.stjohnjackson.org/2014/homily-fr-chas-11-2-2014/.
Yours in Christ,