The Commemoration of All Souls
Wisdom 3:1-9 + Romans 5:5-11 + John 6:37-40
November 2, 2016
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God.”
The belief we celebrate today is part of the “communion of saints.” That’s a familiar phrase—we recite it in the Apostles’ Creed—but the “communion of saints” isn’t just those who are canonized saints in Heaven, but also the members of the Church who are in Purgatory, and on earth. Today we who are members of that third group pray for those in the second, so that joined through prayer, we all may become members of the first.
Sometimes we feel torn like Saint Paul, because while it’s better to be in heaven, God wants us here for His purposes. Those purposes call each of us to help others in many ways. One of the most important of these is prayer for others, which is formally called “intercession”.
Even in heaven, saints are given missions by God. Saints are not simply fixed on God, without regard for others. Saints in heaven pray for the rest of the “communion of saints”.
We on earth are like the saints in Heaven in this regard. While we might want to fix our attention on God alone, God wants us to offer our lives for others, because this is often where we find God revealed in our lives. So it is through our prayers of intercession, both for fellow pilgrims on earth, and for those in Purgatory.
Does this take away from God? No. God wants us to turn to each other. Intercessory prayer is a form of that command to “love your neighbor as yourself”. If it’s valid in God’s eyes to pray for oneself, why wouldn’t it be to pray for others? When a family suffers a tragedy, they draw closer together. Part of this occurs through prayer, and they all are stronger afterwards, and more closely knit.
Our prayer for others draws us closer to those we pray for. Those in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth are drawn closer together through intercession. When we intercede for another—or ask someone’s intercession—we don’t believe that that person is God. We ask another to take our prayers to God. When we call our mother and ask her to pray for us, we’re doing the same as when we kneel and pray a rosary: we are asking our mother to pray to God for us.
Through all prayers of intercession, the Body of Christ grows stronger. In the person of Christ, God and man are united. Within Christ, we live as members of his Body. Within Christ, we build others up, and find God’s love for us.