The whole month of November is dedicated to increasing devotion to aid the souls in purgatory. This past Thursday in the Liturgy of the Hours I read one of the sources from Sacred Scripture that gives evidence of Purgatory and the need to pray for the Faithful Departed. This is from 2 Maccabbees 12:32-46: “After the feast called Pentecost, Judas and his followers lost no time in marching against Gorgias, governor of Idumea, who opposed them with three thousand foot soldiers and four hundred horsemen. In the ensuing battle, a few of the Jews were slain. A man called Dositheus, a powerful horseman and one of Bacenor’s men, caught hold of Gorgias, grasped his military cloak and dragged him along by main strength, intending to capture the vile wretch alive, when a Thracian horseman attacked Dositheus and cut off his arm at the shoulder. Then Gorgias fled to Marisa. After Esdris and his men had been fighting for a long time and were weary, Judas called upon the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in the battle. Then, raising a battle cry in his ancestral language, and with songs, he charged Gorgias’ men when they were not expecting it and put them to flight. Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.”
The second reading for that same day is a beautiful sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (b. cir. 330 – d. cir. 389): “What is man, that You are mindful of him? What is this new mystery surrounding me? I am both small and great, both lowly and exalted, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly. I am to be buried with Christ and to rise again with Him, to become a co-heir with Him, a son of God, and indeed God Himself. This is what the great mystery means for us; this is why God became man and became poor for our sake: it was to raise up our flesh, to recover the Divine Image, to re-create mankind, so that all of us might become one in Christ who perfectly became in us everything that He is Himself. So we are no longer to be male and female, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free—distinctions deriving from the flesh—but are to bear within ourselves only the seal of God, by whom and for whom we were created. We are to be so formed and molded by Him that we are recognized as belonging to His one family. If only we could be what we hope to be, by the great kindness of our generous God! He asks so little and gives so much, in this life and in the next, to those who love Him sincerely. In a spirit of hope and out of love for Him, let us then bear and endure all things and give thanks for everything that befalls us, since even reason can often recognize these things as weapons to win salvation. And meanwhile let us commend to God our own souls and the souls of those who, being more ready for it, have reached the place of rest before us although they walked the same road as we do. Lord and Creator of all, and especially of your creature man, You are the God and Father and ruler of Your children; You are the Lord of life and death, You are the guardian and benefactor of our souls. You fashion and transform all things in their due season through Your creative Word, as You know to be best in Your deep wisdom and providence. Receive now those who have gone ahead of us in our journey from this life. And receive us too at the proper time, when You have guided us in our bodily life as long as may be for our profit. Receive us prepared indeed by fear of You, but not troubled, not shrinking back on that day of death or uprooted by force like those who are lovers of the world and the flesh. Instead, may we set out eagerly for that everlasting and blessed life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God bless us and the Holy Souls in Purgatory and bring them to Heaven! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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