The Answer to the BURNING QUESTION of the Week
By Paul Dion, STL (31A)
Here 's the Burning Question: Why do we pray for the dead?
Fundamentally we pray for the dead because they are in need of our blessings and our prayers to God asking Him to forgive them for the residue that they may have from the sins that they committed while still alive. We pray for them because they may be in purgatory, being purified from the leftover stains of the sins that they confessed, but did not have the time to sacrifice for.
As it is written on the Bible, "nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27). It is true that we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. This temporal punishment can be described as restitution for harm that we have done to those against whom we have sinned. Purgatory is therefore the state that God puts us through to purify us so that we will be clean enough to enter heaven.
As Catholics we believe that our prayers and sacrifices are effective when we ask God to give mercy to the souls in purgatory. When God applies His mercy to these souls in their state of purification, He brings them all the closer to their eternal "repose", that is that He brings them closer to heaven. When they get to heaven, then they will be in perfect and final eternal repose. We believe that we can help them to get there through our prayers and our sacrifices.
Is this purely Catholic Tradition? Does this believe have a connection to the Sacred Scripture? Yes it does. Here it is.
Paul tells us that, when we are judged, "each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? "He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:15).
Furthermore we hear this from the Old Testament:
"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 dead 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" (2 Macc. 12:43–45).
As you can therefore see, Purgatory is a necessary "halfway stop" for many of us. It is a very consoling item of faith for us.
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