All Saints, All Souls, and prayer
While we care for the living, we care as well for the dead. It is our moral and spiritual responsibility to pray for one another and to equally pray for the souls of our beloved dead.
I received a message from a lady known for her pious devotions.
She is bothered by her protestant friend’s question, “Why do you pray for the dead when they are already dead? They will not hear you and you cannot change the decision of God.”
When we attend a wake or a funeral, we go to console the bereaved family and to pray for the soul of the dead. Songs are sung 24 hours. People gather around the dead. Why? It speaks of a reality coupled with a mystery. Hence, we can hardly explain.
Is it a sin to gather around the dead? Is it sinful to sing during wakes and funerals? Is it sinful to pray for the souls of the dead? No.
God does not need our praises and prayers. But He is a God of mercy and compassion who is pleased with our praises, songs, and prayers.
Let us see the practice in the Bible. Let us browse quickly on the Book of Maccabees (2Maccabees 12, 39-45). It presents a biblical basis for the tradition to pray for the dead.
“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchers of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. So, they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of 2,000 drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this, he acted very well and honorably, 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, so that they might be delivered from their sin.”
Aside from the biblical foundation, praying for the dead can be understood too in the life of Jesus.
Praying for the dead is a tradition that gives sense to our faith.
Jesus said to a grieving widow, “Stop crying.” For us to say this to a grieving family is to add insult to their predicament. We grieve and cry because we are human beings. Even Jesus grieved and cried when his friend Lazarus died. But it did not stop there. Jesus has the right and authority to say, “Stop crying. Stop grieving,” because he has the power to raise the dead.
Prayers for the dead will make sense here. It is a hopeful expression of selfless love. Because we care for one another, we don’t want anyone not to belong to the fold of God so we pray for them. Jesus gave life to the little boy and the mother was given life as well. Jesus rose Lazarus.
These powerful gestures of Jesus that defeated death speak about the life to come after our earthly life.
Jesus displayed his concern for the dead and it makes sense for us Christians to pray for the dead which is a gesture of love and a noble understanding of salvation.
We light the candles or burn firewood for the dead with the hope that God called them in his perpetual light.
The Catholic Church teaches the Church Militant, Church Suffering, and Church Triumphant.
We are the Church Militant because we are striving and struggling to holiness and yet we are responsible to pray for one another and to pray for the Church Suffering.
The Church Suffering are those who died and still at the purification state. Our prayers can help them. Hence, we need to remember them and pray for them.
The Church Triumphant are those who are enjoying the glory of God in heaven. They can intercede for us. Hence, we can ask their intercession.
All Saints’ Day, therefore, is a beautiful celebration that should remind us to live in peace through the intercession of the saints. All Souls’ Day is a celebration to remind us to pray for the dead to rest in peace. Reach me at [email protected] or 0908-727-6735.