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Association of the Miraculous Medal
Weekly Gospel Reflection
Besides her great privilege of being the Mother of God, Mary was also her Son’s first disciple. She is often called the Model, or Exemplar of the Church. Following her example, we walk with her through the Gospels as we reflect on her response to God in her life.

November 2, 2014—All Souls Day

  Luke 24

Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M.

Christ’s Resurrection promises eternal life. Today the Church celebrates All Souls’ Day, and several different Gospels may be used. So in this reflection, I’d like to focus on the importance of praying for the dead, a practice which began before the time of Christ.

Some Jewish soldiers fighting in a war for independence, led by the great general, Judas Maccabeus, had been slain in battle (about 160 B.C.). They were wearing pagan amulets, a practice forbidden by Jewish law. Their comrades prayed for the dead that the sinful deed might be blotted out. Then Judas took up a collection among his soldiers, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. Scripture comments that this was holy and pious, and affirms that Judas made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from their sin (2 Maccabees 12:43-46). If heaven and hell were the only possibilities after death, there would be no reason to pray for the dead. Those in heaven do not need prayers, and those in hell are beyond the reach of prayer. So there is an intermediate state, called Purgatory, where people can be helped by prayer.

Many New Testament passages point to the existence of Purgatory. Jesus describes a "payment" for sin after judgment that is not endless (Matthew 5:26). Saint Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 can refer to Purgatory. In 2 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul prays for a dead friend, Onesiphorus: "May the Lord grant him to find mercy...."

Inspired by these passages, believers prayed for the dead from New Testament times, as evidenced by inscriptions in the Roman catacombs. In the fourth century Saint Monica made this deathbed request of her son, Saint Augustine, "One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be." Saint Augustine witnesses to the fact that early Christians prayed for the dead (and prayed to the saints). He says that we do not pray for the martyrs as we do pray for others who have died: "At the table of the Lord we do not commemorate the martyrs in the same way as we commemorate others who rest in peace. We do not pray for the martyrs as we pray for those others, rather they pray for us."

It is indeed "holy and pious" to pray for the dead. "Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!"

Read last week's reflection.