Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Lake Charles, Louisiana
November 2, 2015
The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
(All Souls Day)
“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” John 6:39
Those consoling words were spoken by Jesus in “the Bread of Life Discourse” from the Gospel of St. John. Jesus has just proclaimed that he is “the bread of life” (John 6:35). Jesus will later say, “[W]hoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). His very flesh is a participation in the hope of eternal life, and for those who believe it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
We are here this evening to pray for our faithful departed who partook of “the bread of life.” They came to our Lord, approached Him with love and devotion, received Him in faith, and consumed His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion. The Church has always understood that this communion requires a certain worthiness on our part, a worthiness that comes first through God’s mercy but also comes by our cooperating with God’s grace to live as holy a life as we can, confessing our sins, and avoiding serious sin. As St. Paul teaches the Corinthians when speaking of Holy Communion, “[W]hoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord” (I Corinthians 11:27).
Allowing for the human condition, there is always room for improvement. We are not angels. And for this reason there is more often than not a need of purification. St. Paul teaches us that fire will test the quality of each one’s works and some will need to be saved “only as through fire” (I Corinthians 3:13, 15).
The First Letter of St. Peter speaks of this purification also. He compares it to the refinement of gold. He writes, “[W]hile you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6-7) (5).
This purification after death we call Purgatory. Purgatory is the “final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC #1031). “After death” those who die in God’s friendship but remain imperfectly purified “…undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC #1030).
Purgatory is a reminder of God’s abiding mercy. He never leaves us untended, and God wants us to enjoy unimpeded the vision of Him in eternal life. I am terribly near-sighted and rely on eyeglasses, but those eyeglasses sometimes get dirty. They need to be cleaned every day, sometimes more than once a day. If not, my sight is dimmed, obscured, or distorted.
God does not want our vision of Him to be diminished by any vestige of selfishness in our souls. Therefore, the purification of Purgatory in the fulfillment of His desire that we be saved.
We are here this evening to pray for our faithful departed, to apply to them our prayers for a speedy purification. We want them to reach heaven soon. We offer them our penances, sacrifices, and prayers. They are on their way to glory. “For this is the will of my Father,” says the Lord, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6:40).
Bishop Glen John Provost