Travellers and Navigators

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2 November 2017

Today, all around the world in the universal Church, we celebrate All Souls’ Day. It is a day of prayer dedicated to those who have died. It is a custom in the Church to pray for family and friends who have died.

Way back in the 3rd Century St. Cyprian offered good advice. We should not weep for the dead, since they have gone before us like travellers and navigators.

I like that image, I must say. Christian life is a journey. It doesn’t stop here. It “passes over” death into new life. And we are absolutely sure of this since Jesus himself has “passed over” before us.

Still the question lingers, “Why pray for the dead?” It is an ancient Jewish custom, in fact, that we Christians adopted.

Very few of us, I imagine, feel completely ready to meet Jesus Christ face to face and so after death, we allow ourselves to be purified. The intercessory prayers of the living will help.

This state of purification is called purgatory and today sounds odd, perhaps medieval. But it is a state of profound happiness. We know we’re saved and we know why we’re being purified and we’re totally free in our decision to let ourselves be purified.

In other words, we have travelled beyond life and death and navigated ourselves into a state that is a final preparation and purification for eternal, resurrected life.

Paraphrasing St. John in his first letter:

“Surely everyone who entertains the hope of Christ purifies himself so as to be as pure as Christ” (1 John 3:3).


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