In a world and a society wherein hatred, strife, party spirit, dissension, enmity, anger, conflict and so forth are running supreme how consoling is the reality that evil is overcome with good (see Rom 12:21). Evil fades away before the mighty power of goodness!
I was deeply touched by Pope Francis’ Angelus address of Sunday 15 February 2015. There he taught me: “If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Therefore, there needs to be ever more abundant goodness in us. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!” This is precisely nowadays’ buzzword: Be infected by goodness and spread goodness! And goodness is spread not only in this world by sowing love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where their doubt, hope when there is despair, light when there is darkness, joy when there is sadness. Goodness is spread even in the realm of the afterlife, particularly when we lovingly prayer for faithful departed souls.
During his homily for the repose of the Cardinals and Bishops departed during this year, on November 3, 2017, the Holy Father said: “The ‘many’ who will rise for eternal life are to be understood as the ‘many’ for whom the blood of Christ was shed. They are the multitude that, thanks to the goodness and mercy of God, can experience the life that does not pass away, the complete victory over death brought by the resurrection”. Then, towards the end of his homily, the Pope encouraged us to pray for them so “that they may share in the eternal banquet of which, with faith and love, they had a foretaste in the course of their earthly pilgrimage”.
A very effective way of how, you and I can pray for the souls of our brothers and sisters who departed from this valley of tears is, exactly, by offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Mass for them . The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us that “from the beginning the church has honoured 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” (No. 1032).
Moreover, the Bible shows us that praying for the soul’s repose of the deceased was already rooted within the Jewish faith itself. Judas Maccabees, the great Jewish General, offered prayers and sacrifices for the Jewish soldiers who had fallen wearing pagan amulets, that were utterly forbidden by the Torah. II Maccabees tells us: “They turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out” (2 Mac 12:42). This Biblical text adds: “(Judas Maccabees) also took up a collection, man by man, … and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from their sin” (12:43-45).
The Vatican Council, through Lumen Gentium, instructs us that “this sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of heaven or who are yet being purified after their death.” (No. 51). Furthermore, in his encyclical Mirae Caritatis (1902) Pope Leo XIII explains: “The grace of mutual love among the living, strengthened and increased by the sacrament of the Eucharist, flows, especially by virtue of the sacrifice (of the Mass), to all who belong to the communion of saints… [and to] those consigned to the purifying fire. Faith teaches that … the august sacrifice …can nevertheless be celebrated … according to apostolic tradition, to wash away the stains of those brethren who died in the Lord but without yet being wholly purified.”
Let us love our faithful departed by heroically offering for them Masses for their souls repose! Yes! If you and I want to “obtain mercy” (Matt 5:7) let us be merciful to them!