Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Sunday Homily for November 2, 2008
All Souls Day, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (31A)
By Father Cusick
( Rooted in ancient Christian tradition, as witnessed by Tertullian in the 2nd century A.D., St. Odilo of Cluny established a memorial of all the faithful departed in 988. It was accepted by Rome in the 13th century. An Apostolic Constitution of Pope Benedict XV in 1915 granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses today for the following intentions: one Mass for a particular intention, another Mass for all the faithful departed, and a third Mass for the intention of the Pope. A stipend may be received only for the first intention mentioned above.)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We pray and offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice on this occasion for all of the "faithful" departed, of whom the Lord speaks in today's gospel.
For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn 6, 40)
In our day the greatest danger to the true faith is the error of relativism, according to recent comments by Cardinal Ratzinger. The belief that any way to approach God is as good or as true as any other is incompatible with the faith of the Apostles, expressed by Peter when he said, "Lord, to whom else shall we go, you alone have the words of eternal life." Christ himself taught: "I am the way." There is no other way to eternal beatitude with the Father in heaven except through his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Only the faithful departed, or those who through no fault of their own never came to know Christ and yet sought to love God, can hope for everlasting life. Only faith in the sole source of forgiveness of sins can bring that forgiveness by which we will be washed clean and so made acceptable to enter into God's presence.
Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. (Cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 et al.) "Since 'without faith it is impossible to please [God]' and attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'but he who endures to the end.' " (Dei Filius 3: DS 3012; cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13 and Heb 11:6; Council of Trent: DS 1532.)
We pray on this feast for all of those souls who yet undergo their purification from sin made possible by the washing in the blood of the Lamb.
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 1030)
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. (Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.) The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, be reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: (Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.)
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31) (CCC 1031)
In our liturgy today we pray as we believe. We pray for the dead in as much as the Church teaches the power of prayer to shorten their suffering and hasten their beatitude.
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Macc 12:46) From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. (Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 856.) The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead. (CCC 1032)
St. John Chrysostom speaks of this reality of our faith when he writes:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf. Mt 12:31.) (CCC 1032)
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick
(See also CCC 161, 606, 989, 994, 1001, 2824)