Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,
Thank you for your support for Fr. M.S. Selvaraj and the needs of the Diocese of Kumbakonam. This is a way to reach into the homes of the poorest our brothers and sisters with timely help. Since Fr. Selvaraj is covering the Masses this weekend I am able to go visit my brother Randy and the other seminarians at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit (Dan and Seamus are there as well). It will be great to spend some time with them. I will make sure to pass on your regards as well.
Tomorrow we enter into the month of November which carries a certain solemnity for us because we remember and pray in a particular way for those who have gone before us.
A few years ago, I had a meeting with a parishioner who was dying from cancer. Part of our conversation was about his upcoming funeral Mass. He wanted the reading from 2nd Maccabees where it talks about the Jewish people interceding for their deceased comrades and emphasized that he wanted me to ask those at the Mass to pray for him. He had a lively sense of his own imperfections and knew that there was some work still for God to do in his heart! He was talking about the powerful promise of purgatory, that God would make right in us what had not yet been accomplished. He also knew that his loved ones could be a part of that process by accompanying him with his prayers.
This is a reality that should be very comforting to us, not a scary one. I love this quote from Pope Benedict that frames it so well:
There will be few people whose lives are pure and fulfilled in all respects. And, we would hope, there will be few people whose lives have become an irredeemable and total No. For the most part, the longing for good has remained, despite many breakdowns, in some sense determinative.
God can pick up the broken pieces and make something of them. In any case, we need a final cleansing, a cleansing by fire, to be exact, in which the gaze of Christ, so to say, burns us free from everything, and only under this purifying gaze are we, as it were, fit to be with God and able, then, to make our home with him… I think it is something very human. I would go so far as to say that if there was no purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that he was able to stand directly before God. And yet we don’t want to be, to use an image from Scripture, “a pot that turned out wrong,” that has to be thrown away; we want to be able to be put right.
Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.”
What a promise of grace, that God can put the pieces back together again! Like my parishioner, when my day comes, I too want those around me to pray for me that I can enter into the purifying love of God. In the meantime, especially in this month, we remember and pray for those whom we love.