All Souls’ Day is a day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone for their eternal reward and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification.
Ancient belief: 1) People of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul, and have prayed for the dead.
2) The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release. The Jewish catechism, the Talmud, states that prayers for the dead will help to bring greater rewards and blessings to them. Prayer for the souls of the departed is retained by today’s Orthodox Jews, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that he/she may be purified.
3) Jesus and the apostles shared this belief and passed it on to the early Church. “Remember us who have gone before you, in your prayers,” is a petition often found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs (Lumen Gentium-50).
4) The liturgies of the Mass in various rites dating from the early centuries of the Church include “Prayers for the Dead.”
5) The early Fathers of the Church encouraged this practice. Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) wrote about the anniversary Masses for the dead, advising widows to pray for their husbands. St. Augustine remarked that he used to pray for his deceased mother, remembering her request: “When I die, bury me anywhere you like, but remember to pray for me at the altar” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 9, Chapter 11, and Section 27).
6) The synods of Nicaea, Florence and Trent encouraged the offering of prayers for the dead, citing Scriptural evidences to prove that there is a place or state of purification for those who die with venial sins on their souls.
Theological reasoning: According to Rv 21:27: “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” Holy Scripture (Prv 24:16) also teaches that even “the just sin seven times a day.” Since it would be contrary to the mercy of God to punish such souls with venial sins in Hell, they are seen as entering a place or state of purification, called Purgatory, which combines God’s justice with His mercy. This teaching is also contained in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
Biblical basis: 1) II Maccabees, 12:46 is the main Biblical text incorporating the Jewish belief in the necessity of prayer and sacrifice for the dead. The passage (II Mc 12:39-46), describes how Judas, the military commander, “took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering” (II Mc 12:43). The narrator continues, “If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them.”
2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief. At the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: “May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day” (II Tim 1:18). Other pertinent Bible texts: Mt 12:32, I Corinthians, 3:15, Zec 13:19, Sirach 7:33.
The Church’s teaching: The Church’s official teaching on Purgatory is plain and simple. There is a place or state of purification called Purgatory, where souls undergoing purification can be helped by the prayers of the faithful (Council of Trent). Some modern theologians suggest that the fire of Purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and his fire of love. They also speak of Purgatory as an “instant” purification immediately after death, varying in intensity from soul to soul, depending on the state of each individual.
How do we help the “holy souls”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1032) recommends prayer for the dead in conjunction with the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The CCC also encourages “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.” Let us not forget to pray for our dear departed, have Masses offered for them, visit their graves, and make daily sacrifices for them. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19 For USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/MyCavon7sqg
Nov 3 Tuesday: Lk 14:15-24: 15 When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; 17 and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for all is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, `I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ 19 And another said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ 20 And another said, `I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, `Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, `Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, `Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Jesus was participating in a banquet where he advised the host to reserve admission to the “poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” and so to become eligible for God’s reward at the resurrection. One of Jesus’ fellow-guests commented on the blessedness of those who are invited to attend the Heavenly banquet hosted by Yahweh to honor His Chosen People. Jesus used the occasion to highlight the cost of refusing God’s invitation for the Heavenly banquet with lame excuses by telling a parable of a banquet hosted by a very rich and influential landowner.
The parable: The invited VIP guests, who had accepted the first invitation to participate in the banquet, refused the second invitation sent a few days before the banquet, giving lame excuses like the inspection of a newly-bought field, the testing of a newly-bought five yoke of oxen and honeymooning with a newly-married wife. The angry landowner instructed his servants to invite everyone in the surrounding areas in order to fill the banquet hall. Jesus directed this parable to the Jewish religious and civic leaders who had accepted the Covenant but had refused to accept his invitation for God’s salvation, the endpoint of the first Covenant, and had attacked his preaching and healing ministry. Jesus explained through this parable why he was befriending tax collectors and sinners, promising them eternal salvation and participation in the Heavenly banquet.
Life message: God invites us through Jesus and his Church to the banquet of the word of God, to the banquet of the Body and Blood of Jesus, and to the banquet of His grace through His Holy Spirit via the SacramentsLet us examine ourselves to discover whether we, too, are refusing God’s invitation and giving lame excuses to show how busy we are because of our work or career duties, our addictions to games, entertainments and hobbies or our preoccupation with family matters. We may not get a better chance or more opportunities to accept God’s invitation to pray deeply, to join the Eucharistic celebration or to do serious study of and refection on the word of God or service in the community. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Nov 4 Wednesday (St. Charles Borromeo): Lk 14:25-33: 25 Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and He turned and addressed them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem, and his apostles, as well as the common people, thought that the Master was going to overthrow the Roman government by using miraculous powers. Hence, a big crowd was following him. Jesus thought it was necessary to clarify for them the real cost involved in following him – the cost of Christian discipleship.
The teaching: Today’s Gospel passage from Luke challenges us to make a total commitment to the will of God by putting Him first in our lives. He reminds us to count the cost of being a Christian, because the cost is high. Christian discipleship requires one to “renounce” both possessions of the earth and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships). Jesus lays out four “trip wires” challenging true Christian discipleship: i) attachment to family; ii) attachment to possessions; iii) the hard consequences of discipleship which may involve even losing one’s life; and iv) the cost involved. Using the examples of a watch tower in a vineyard, left uncompleted due to lack of funds, and the example of a foolish king facing defeat by going to war without assessing the strength of the enemy, Jesus warns his would-be followers to count the cost and calculate the consequences before becoming his disciples.
Life message: 1) We need to accept Jesus’ challenge of making a total self-gift to Him in our commitment in true Christian Discipleship: “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” (Martin Luther). Jesus’ challenge can be accepted only if, with God’s grace, we practice the spirit of detachment and renunciation in our daily lives. Real Christian discipleship also demands a true commitment both to the duties entrusted to us and to loving acts of selfless, humble and sacrificial love offered to all God’s children around us. This is possible only if we rely on His grace, on the power of prayer and on the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a) daily prayer, b) devout participation in the Sunday Mass c) diligent study of the Bible, d) service in and beyond the parish, e) spiritual friendships, and f) giving time, talents, and resources to the Lord’s work. (Fr. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Nov 5 Thursday: Lk 15:1-10: 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel passage, from chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, is known as the “Gospel in the Gospels,” or the “distilled essence of Christ’s Good News.” In this chapter, using three parables, Jesus answers two accusations leveled against him by the Scribes and Pharisees, namely, that he is mingling with the sinners and sharing their meals. These parables teach us that our God is a loving, patient, merciful, and forgiving God. He is eager to be merciful toward us, not vengeful and punishing. He is always in search of His lost and straying children.
The parables: Since the self-righteous Pharisees who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd’s joy on its discovery, the parable of the lost silver coin (a drachma, worth about a denarius, a farm worker’s “daily wage”), and the woman’s joy when she found it, and the parable of the lost son and his Father’s joy at His repentant son’s return Besides presenting a God Who is patiently waiting for the return of sinners, ready to pardon them, these parables teach us God’s infinite love and mercy. Christianity is not about man seeking God, but rather about a Holy God seeking a sinful man. In other words, in salvation, as in forgiveness, the initiative is always God’s. These three parables defend Jesus’ alliance with sinners and respond to the criticism leveled by certain Pharisees and scribes at Jesus’ frequent practice of eating with and welcoming tax collectors and sinners.
Life messages: 1) We need to meet the challenge for self-evaluation and return to God’s mercy: If we have been in sin, God’s mercy is seeking us, searching for our souls with a love that is wild beyond all imagining. God is ready to receive and welcome us back as Jesus welcomed sinners in his time. 2) Let us get reconciled with God, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we are in mortal sin, and in asking His forgiveness for our sins every night before we sleep. We also need to ask God for the courage to extend this forgiveness to others who have offended us. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray as well for God’s Divine Mercy on those who have fallen away from grace. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Nov 6 Friday: Luke 16:1-8: 1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?’ He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the strange parable of a steward who was a rascal to teach us that serving God is a full-time job, not a part-time job or a spare-time hobby. Jesus also teaches us that we should use, in matters spiritual and eternal, the same ingenuity and planning which business people show in the business world. The parable challenges us to use our blessings — time, talents, health and wealth — wisely and shrewdly, so that they will count for our reward in eternity. We are on the right road only if we use our earthly wealth to attain our Heavenly goal.
The parable: In the parable, Jesus tells us how the slave-steward of an absentee landlord ingeniously cheated his master by his unjust manipulation of the master’s business clients when the steward had been caught red-handed in misappropriating his master’s wealth. His tricks were intended to make him the friend of his master’s debtors and gave him the prospect of becoming rich by working for them (or blackmailing them?) when he was fired by his master from the stewardship.
Life messages: 1) We need to be faithful in the little things of life: As Saint John Chrysostom said, “Faithfulness in little things is a big thing.” Our future opportunities in the eternal service of God largely depend on our stewardship in handling the little opportunities we have had on earth. As Mother Teresa used to recommend, “Do little things with great love.” 2) We have to act shrewdly, trusting in the power and assistance of God. Let us make use of our resources — like Hope in God’s justice, Faith in God’s assistance, and Trust in God’s grace, the Mass and the Sacraments as sources of Divine grace and the Holy Bible as the word of God for daily meditation. 3) Let us remember that as God’s stewards we need to be prepared to give an account of our lives at any time (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Nov 7 Saturday: Lk 16:9-15: 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. 15 But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: After telling the parable of the rascally steward as an example of shrewdness and as a warning against using unjust means for gain, Jesus advises his listeners to make friends with the poor by almsgiving and to be faithful and honest in the little things entrusted to them by God.
The teaching: Jesus advises his followers to imitate the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends for himself. Jesus suggests that his disciples should show their generosity and mercy by almsgiving: “sell your possessions and give alms” (Luke 12:33). The recipients immediately become friends of the kind donor. It is God’s generosity which makes one rich, and, hence, the money we have is unrighteous in the sense that it is unearned and undeserved. So, God expects us to be generous stewards of His generous blessings. Generosity curtails our natural greed, making almsgiving an act of thanksgiving to God for His generosity. Then Jesus tells us that what we get in Heaven will depend on how we have used the things of the earth and on how faithful we have been in the little things entrusted to us. A slave is the exclusive property of his master, and our Master, God, is the most exclusive of masters. So, serving Him cannot be a part-time job or spare-time hobby; it is full-time job. Finally, Jesus warns the Pharisees that material prosperity is not a sure sign of one’s goodness and God’s blessing, but a sign of God’s mercy and generosity.
Life messages: 1) We need to share our blessings with others. Since all our blessings are God’s generous loans to us, we need to be equally generous with others. 2) We need to serve God full-time: Since God owns us totally, we are expected to be at His service doing His holy will all the time. Hence, there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20