November is the saddest month. The warmth of the year has gone, the leaves have fallen, the days are short and we wait for December and the promise of new life and hope in the birth of Jesus.
Our prayers for the Holy Souls, our departed loved ones, have guided our prayer in recent weeks. It is good for the Church to dedicate a month of prayer for those we loved and lost and long to see again. We can remember them any time, loving them as we always did, wishing they were still here, knowing that we shall see them when our lives come to their peaceful end as theirs did; but November, as their month in the Communion of Saints, has a loving sadness of its own.
Where are they? With God. There is no place purgatory. They are with God and aware of how they might have lived more loving lives. We shall be the same – we shall regret the selfishness and selfcentredness and narrowness of life we lived. We shall look at God and the love for the whole human race that we might have shared (we know of good people who did just that) and wish “if only”.
The bigots, the prejudiced and selfish will see the world as God sees and they did not want to. Now they/we need to be purified of all selfishness, to let go of my world in order to be open to God’s, the real, world. How small my life, my heart, my mind and they might have been so much more open. What pain as I admit my selfishness, look at people I might have helped and did not bother – the hungry, homeless, refugee, asylum seeker, lonely, unloved, the sick, the hated and despised. They are here with God! Unless I love them I won’t belong. Clinging on to my selfishness and knowing the torment of regret that God’s love now inspires me to feel – that is the purifying forgiving love of God. How hard.
Now our loved ones see us as we truly are, ready to forgive us but deeply disappointed. We see ourselves truly as we are and know the same disappointment. The pain of knowing and being known. That is purgatory, lived in the presence of God.
Read Pope Benedict’s understanding of this in his beautiful book “Jesus of Nazareth”. Purgatory is not a place, it is being with God and longing to be forgiven in the pain of knowing how much we need forgiveness. Our prayers for the dead are sharing in God’s love as that forgiveness is given, telling our loved ones that we loved and love them unconditionally. All is forgiven.
God blesses us always,
(2nd December 2018)
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