Years ago a priest friend of mine told me he wanted to be buried with his fork. I told him usually a Catholic is buried with a rosary, but he said no, he wanted to be buried with his fork In explaining his reason for that request he said: remember when at the end of a meal you mother said, "save your fork" you knew that the best is yet to come.
Our reading today support that belief. Most of us tend to look at death as a terrible thing but when we read our scriptures for today the results almost look like rewards. In today's reading from Isaiah we read that "God will destroy death forever." And "The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces;". That doesn't sound too bad: no more death and no more tears. And in our reading today from St. Paul's letter to the Roman we read that: "so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. ... we believe that we shall also live with him." And of course we know where Christ lives, in heaven and he wants everyone of us to be with him there, in heaven. Who of us doesn't want to be with him in heaven, where there is no more tears, pain, temptation or anything bad?
There was this old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to the wife's interest in health food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to the mansion which had a beautiful kitchen, master bathe with a Jacuzzi and a fantastic buffet breakfast. The man asked, How much can we eat? St. Peter said, "Don't you understand, this is heaven, eat as much as you like." After breakfast they went to the club house of heaven's extensive golf course and saw another beautiful buffet. The man asked , "Where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables? St. Peter replies, "That's the best part, you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick." The man replied "Now this is really Heaven." And he looked at his wife angrily and said, "This is all your fault. If it weren't for your bran muffins and sugar-free diet, I could have been here ten years ago!"
Nice story, giving us a glimpse of what Heaven might be like but God calls us to use the gifts we have been given meaning, take care of gift of life, take care of our bodies and accept the free gift of salvation by imitating Christ, spreading the Good News, God's truths in our words and actions. And having a genuine devotion to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Then when God calls us home, and we have been God's friend, earthly life ends and a new life begins. More than likely we still may have some work to do scrubbing away the effects of our sinful choices, to bring us into a condition is necessary to be admitted into heaven, being perfect but the outcome is never in question, Heaven is still our final destination.
This scrubbing away is accomplished in a state known as Purgatory. Some people have asked if the Church still teaches that Purgatory exists in that scripture doesn't use the word Purgatory. Of course the answer is yes and Purgatory has always been a teaching of the Catholic Church and it is based on Scripture in the second Book of Maccabees and as well multiple books of the New Testament when it says that sins will be forgiven in this age and in the aged to come. (Matthew 12:32). Many of the non-Catholic Christian Churches do not include 2nd Maccabees in their Old Testament to avoid accepting the Doctrine of Purgatory. The fact is that the Jews believed, at the time of Christ, that prayers for the dead will help bring them greater rewards and blessings. Jesus contradicted many of the beliefs of the Jewish faith but he never contradicted that one. The Jews maintain that belief today.
The 1st Century Church believed and taught the doctrine of Purgatory as evidenced by inscription in the walls of the Roman catacombs which read: "Remember those who have gone before you in your prayers." It is as well evidenced by the early Church Fathers like St. Augustine who said: "Bury me anywhere but remember to pray for me." Why would he ask that? If he were in heaven he doesn't need prayers and if he is in hell it won't do him any good.
So praying for those who have gone before us is always a great thing to do and a great gift to our friends and relatives, especially on this day, All Souls Day in order that they attain, that promise that the best that is yet to come, perfect happiness as quickly as possible. Here at JOS we remember all of our relatives and friends with a special ceremony at every Mass during the month of November beginning today.