Homily of the Week

I want to start with a story told from a father’s perspective about his son. He said his son was special because of some disabilities. During a walk through a park one day they stopped to watch a baseball game in progress. The boys playing were about the same age as my son. 

After a few minutes my son asked if he could play with them. I said I didn’t know but would find out. I approached one of the boys, pointed to my son and asked if there was a chance if he could play with them somehow. 

He looked at my son, looked at the ground, looked at his team-mates, then said, “Well, we’re down by 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  I guess it won’t hurt if he joins us to lose the game.”

He motioned for my son to come on over. As the inning ended, he was given a glove and t-shirt and put out in right field. No balls came near him, but, he was with the team. He was happy!

Now it was my son’s team’s turn to bat.  The first batter hit a low grounder between first and second and got to first base. A second batter hit a good one to center field. Both advanced a base…And so it went until now my son’s team was down by just one with two outs.  They had been through all the other batters. It was my son’s turn to bat.

“Well, the game will be over soon now,” I thought.  My son had never to my knowledge ever swung at a ball.  He didn’t even hold the bat right. But one of the players helped him get a decent grip. The pitcher threw the ball. Strike one. But then the pitcher stepped closer and lobbed an easy one. Almost, but strike two.

Now the pitcher moved even closer to the batter’s box. A straight ball hit the bat and his team-mates screamed, “Run, Run, Run!”  My son ran in his own way. I watched and rejoiced as the first baseman let the ball roll right past him. My son made it to first base!  He gave me a big grin!

The next batter hit a solid ball to left field, but the outfielder didn’t catch it until after it hit the ground.  He threw it to second base but he threw it high, over the second baseman’s head. Again, the team yelled “Run! Run! Run!”  My son ran faster than he’d ever ran in his life.

The next batter came up. On the third throw he hit one straight pass the short stop. But the ball didn’t seem to end up in anybody’s glove until my son had ran to home plate.

It was glorious day for my son, a glorious day for the boys on both teams. The story ended by saying that the man’s son had died the next winter. But he never stopped talking about the day he won the ball game.

St Paul says in our first reading this morning: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”  Was Paul saying that all that Christ suffered, in offering himself, was not enough. Not at all. The suffering that Christ endured for our salvation was complete and was all that was needed. But St Paul is telling us here that we all have the opportunity to participate in the suffering of Christ by offering our own suffering in order to bring about more love in the world.   

What St Paul tells us here is that there is another meaning to suffering. God’s willingness to embrace suffering out of love has given suffering a meaning and a power that it did not have. Jesus didn’t save us from suffering but saved us through suffering and made suffering an instrument of salvation.

In this story, there was suffering taking place with the father, suffering taking place with the son and suffering taking place with both ball teams as they gave up their own desires to win so that the boy could experience the joy of playing.

Every time that we make a small sacrifice or fore go our own desires out of love for another and for Christ, we participate in his suffering. And that becomes a source of grace for us and for all of those for whom we offer it. There was more love in the world as a result of that game. Nobody’s sacrifice was big but it all bore fruit.

Suffering creates vulnerability. Vulnerability creates opportunities to offer ourselves. When we offer our suffering it isn’t the pain that is redemptive, but it is the offering of our self in selfless love. Offering self, when combined with God’s offering of himself to us, has the power to transform human suffering into opportunities to bring more love into the world.

If we carry our cross in life willingly, that will help lead us to eternal life with Christ. If we carry it unwillingly, we still have to bear it, but it leads us nowhere. 

Let us pray this morning as we participate in the Mass; where the suffering and death of Christ is re-presented for us. Where God accepts the suffering of his son and transforms it into the love that we experience in the Eucharist; let us pray that we can learn to offer our suffering in a way that it can be transformed into a greater love in the world.  

Weekday Homily

Tuesday Nov 5th, 2019

Deacon Joseph Bland

 

Focus:  All Souls Day “Purgatory”

During the whole month of November we pray for all the faithful departed. “All Saints Day” was Friday, we honored and remembered all those triumphant souls that were successful during their time here on earth and have made it to Heaven. But “All Souls Day” landed on Saturday and got slighted somewhat so I will touch on it this morning.

 

Escatology-the study of the last things. The last four things are “Death Judgment Heaven and Hell”. If you notice Purgatory is not listed one of the last four things, why? Because when Jesus comes again, and he will, all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven and Purgatory will cease to exist.

 

Purgatory- is a Doctrine of the Faith, it’s Catholic Theology. Some Christians don’t believe in it. Catholic’s do believe. If we die and still have some attachment to sin, free of all mortal serious sin, we still have to be purged/cleansed of that sinful attachment, we have to atone for that sin because we have a just judge. The atoning for our sins we committed here on earth is called “temporal punishment” in Purgatory. You might be asked by some bible Christian “where does it say Purgatory in the Bible”?  It doesn’t. But neither does it say “Trinity” in the Bible and nearly all Christians believe in the Trinity. The Catholic Church didn’t approve the Doctrine of the Trinity until the 3rd Century. The Trinity is very scriptural.

 

The Doctrine of Purgatory is very scriptural as well, here are a few examples:        Mt 5:8 – be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect

                   Heb 12:14 – strive for that holiness w/o which cannot see God

                   Jam 3:2 – we all fall short in many respects

                   Rev 21:27 – nothing unclean shall enter heaven

                   1 Jn 5:16-17 – degrees of sins distinguished

                   Jam 1:14-15 – when sin reaches maturity gives birth to death

                   2 Sam 12:13-14 – David, though forgiven, still punished

                   Mt 5:26 – you will not be released until you pay last penny

          Mt 12:32 – sin against Holy Spirit unforgiven in this age or the next

                   2 Macc 12:44-46 – atoned for dead to free them from sin

                   1 Cor 3:15 – suffer loss, but saved as through fire

                   2 Tim 1:16-18 –  St.Paul prays for dead friend Onesiphorus

So you see Purgatory is very scriptural. Let’s look at the Official Teaching in our Catechism of the Catholic Church:

          CCC 1021 Particular Judgment, Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.

          CCC 1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven, or through a purification in Purgatory, or immediate and everlasting damnation into hell.

          CCC 1030 The Final Purification, or “Purgatory”. 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.

          CCC 1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damed (Hell).

 

The best explanation of this suffering in Purgatory comes from an Apologetics book I’ve had on my shelf for about 20 years. It says: “Many Christians suffer with great peace and joy because they know trials can draw them closer to God. Likewise, the souls in Purgatory suffer with peace and joy because they also know their sufferings are bringing them ever nearer to God. They know God’s purifying love is burning away all attachments of sin, all obstacles keeping them from heaven.

 

Here’s another way of understanding the suffering in Purgatory. Imagine Patient Y with an incurable cancer that burns like fire. He has no hope for a cure. The searing pain has no benefit. Patient Y will suffer with great despondency, knowing the pointless agony will not end until death.

 

Now imagine Patient Z with curable cancer. The doctor begins a treatment that causes him to suffer as much as Patient Y. But the doctor assures Patient Z that the painful treatment is only targeting cancer cells; not a single healthy cell will be harmed. Patient Z will gladly suffer the same searing pain with peace and joy. He knows the treatment will kill his cancer, restore his health, and stop the pain.

 

Souls in hell (Patient Y) suffer great torments that have no healing purpose and will never end. Souls in Purgatory (Patient Z) suffer torment, but their sufferings only attack  the imperfections that keep them from perfect spiritual health (heaven). Once the imperfections are burned away the pain will cease. That is why they suffer with peace and joy.

 

Many people have the misconception that when souls go to Purgatory, they are desperately trying to get into heaven, but God drags them kicking and screaming into Purgatory. The truth is the opposite. Heaven has not gates! Souls go to Purgatory willingly, even eagerly. They realize nothing unclean will enter Heaven.

 

When people die in the state of grace, but needing further purification, they immediately realize they cannot enter heaven because they have put up obstacles through their own free will. They could and should have removed these obstacles in this life on earth. Souls enter Purgatory freely, grateful for God’s mercy. They accept the necessary purification with joyful submission to God’s will.

 

As we can see, the pains and sufferings of Purgatory are totally different from the sufferings of Hell. To view Purgatory as a “temporary Hell”, or a “second chance”, is a serious misunderstanding. Souls in Hell are damned.

They suffer eternal torment in utter despair, completely devoid of love. Souls in Purgatory are saints. The suffering souls in Purgatory are part of the Doctrine on Communion of Saints. They suffer purifying pain full of hope and love since they know they will soon be fully united to God in Heaven.”

 

Closing – I have kept a list of all those that have died on our Pastoral Care visit list since 2007. It now totals “135”! Besides their Funeral Mass or service, we have had additional Masses and prayers said for each of them, hopefully helping them while in Purgatory to attain Heaven, our ultimate goal. We remember them each year on “All Souls Day”.

 

If I happen to check out early, die unexpectedly, please have Masses and Prayers said for me, for I am a sinner and realize nothing unclean will enter into Heaven. I can say “Thank God for Purgatory, for everyone there are on their way to eternal happiness in Heaven”!

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