Day 309: Praying for the Dead
2 Maccabees 12:1-37 Not everyone was happy with the return of proper worship to the Temple and Rome’s new policy toward Israel. Some of the neighboring Gentiles and Syrian military leaders embarked on a wave of persecution against the Jews. Judas, however, exacted revenge on the offending parties; pursuing the Syrian general Timothy, Judas razed those Gentile towns along the way whose hatred and blasphemy against the Jews was evident. As before, Judas relied on the strength of God, turned to him in prayer, and was consequently victorious.
Ch 12:38-45 This is the most explicit evidence in the Old Testament for the existence of Purgatory, a state of purification for those who have died in faith but require temporal punishment for their sins and imperfections. Judas recognized that the men who died were carrying idols and thereby concluded the reason for their deaths. Judas, therefore, believed that the prayers and sacrifices of the living could help atone for the sins of the deceased so that they might be resurrected to new life. This passage also confirms the Communion of Saints, which exists among the members of the Church in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth. God responds to penance and charity offered in reparation for the sins of others with graces for conversion. Indulgences as well as prayers and sacrifices for the repose of the souls of the deceased are a wonderful expression of the Spiritual Works of Mercy for those in need of purification. (CCC 958, 1032, 1055)
Wisdom 13:1 This chapter begins with an elaboration of idolatry, the belief in or worship of false gods, which is a grave offense against the First Commandment. Belief in God is a basic tenet of natural law as well as the bedrock of the Christian Faith. The divine teachings of Christ reveal that there are three Persons in one God. God communicates through his creation, through his prophets, and ultimately through the Incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. (CCC 1147, 2112)
Ch 13:1-9 The rich variety of created beings points to an All-powerful and All-knowing Creator. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that we can know God by the light of natural reason simply by observing the harmony and order of creation. Moreover, through philosophical analysis of the created world, one can arrive at the notion of a prime mover and an uncaused cause. (CCC 31-35, 40-41, 216, 2500)
Ch 13:3 The human being resembles God in a finite manner because he is made in the image and likeness of God and, thus, reflects the divine nature. God, however, infinitely transcends all created things. Nevertheless, God’s transcendental perfection of beauty, goodness, and truth can be perceived by analogy by means of contemplating God’s work of creation. (CCC 41, 2129, 2500)
Ch 13:10-19 In stark contrast to the living God of Israel, the pagan people worshiped idols shaped by human hands.
Ch 14:1-31 Continuing the theme of the previous chapter, these idols would be used as the figureheads for ships as an assurance of safety. The inspired author reiterates that these manufactured artifacts are powerless and that true power rests in the one true God of the people of Israel. Worshiping idols is forbidden by the First Commandment. (CCC 2112-2114)
Ch 14:7 This verse has long been interpreted in Christian tradition in light of the Crucifixion of Christ on the wood of the Cross. During the liturgical celebration on Friday of Holy Week (Good Friday), as a cross is carried through the church and elevated, this refrain is proclaimed three times: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.”
Ch 14:12 Sexual sins are linked to idolatry since lustful passions become ends in themselves and are seen consequently as the source of happiness. When human sexuality is separated from the expression of total self-gift within marriage, then the pursuit of lustful pleasure becomes a form of idolatry. Scripture often speaks of the idolatrous acts of Israel as infidelity, the same term is applied to the act of adultery. (CCC 2534)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition 2006)
Ok so we have some WISDOM in Solomon, that’s for darn sure
Not only do we have WISDOM in Solomon, we have the WISDOM OF SOLOMON when it comes to IDOLATRY
We love how he lays the smack down on those who turn to idols
Yeah, you burn up a piece of wood and you have some scraps left over
But then you carve those scraps and make them into the shape of a human being or animal
And then you make a little niche (however you say it) in the wall
And you protect it
And you PRAY to it all of a sudden
Now all of a sudden...I love this…
Wisdom 13:17-19,”...he is not ashamed to address a life less thing. For health he appeals to a thing that is weak; for life he prays to a thing that is dead; for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced; for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step; for money-making and work and success with his hands he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength.”
It’s basically highlighting the INSANITY of TURNING TO IDOLS instead of TURNING TO THE LIVING GOD
One of the things we hear in Wisdom of Solomon Ch 13 is by looking around at the universe, looking around at creation, you should be able to perceive from the BEAUTY OF CREATION the REALITY OF GOD
You should be able to perceive from the BEAUTY OF CREATION the FACT that here is God who EXISTS and MADE ALL THINGS
If you think his WORKS are beautiful, what would HE look like?
If his works are WISE and INTELLIGENT and POWERFUL…
What must the CREATOR OF THEM be like?
Of course, what happens?
They worship the CREATION rather than CREATOR
This is the temptation for ALMOST EVERY ONE OF US
The temptation towards IDOLATRY
We may not make a carving and put it in a little special spot
It’s interesting and worth being reminded AGAIN AND AGAIN
We rarely make idols out of BAD THINGS
We ALMOST ALWAYS make idols out of GOOD THINGS
Idolatry really isn’t taking EVIL EVIL things and making them into God
It’s taking GOOD things and making them ABSOLUTE things
It’s taking GOOD things and treating them like they are ULTIMATE things
And in that sense, we have IDOLATROUS HEARTS
So that’s why we come to the Lord and ask for his MERCY
Ask him to DELIVER US
Ask him to MAKE US WISE AND NOT FOOLISH
Ask him to MAKE US NOT WILLING TO LIVE FOR SOMETHING THAT IS NOT WORTH LIVING FOR
Speaking of life….here’s the segue (I’m no linguist or word expert but doesn’t segue just look like a weird word? Have you ever seen a word in whatever language and the way it’s pronounced doesn’t really jive with how it’s spelled? I know you’re out there...😉)
In 2 Maccabees Ch 12 we have a lot of DESTRUCTION and DEATH and WAR and VIOLENCE
We also have a really BIG section in 2 Maccabees Ch 12 when it comes to a REALLY IMPORTANT EASTERN ORTHODOX AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE
This was the DOCTRINE of ALL CHRISTIANS up to about the year 1500+
THE DOCTRINE OF PRAYING FOR THE DEAD
So here’s Judas and they are having a battle in the city Adullam
They keep the Sabbath
The next day they go to collect the bodies of the dead
They find amulets on the bodies of the dead
Basically tokens of idols of Jamnia which the Law forbids Jews to wear
So it was very obvious then, this was why those people had died
So that was the conclusion they made
So what does Judas Maccabeus do?
He says, “Ok we are going to PRAY for these men.”
And he TAKES UP A COLLECTION to take back to Jerusalem
2,000 Drachmas of silver to provide for a sin offering
Now he’s praying for those WHO HAVE ALREADY DIED
2 Maccabees 12:43-44, “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.”
That’s one of the things we recognize
Even in the Early Church, Christians were IMMEDIATELY OFFERING PRAYERS FOR THOSE WHO HAD DIED
EVEN CHRISTIANS WHO HAD DIED!!
So wait a second….🤔🤔🤔
If someone is in HELL they are LOST, right?
Then prayers are not going to help them
If someone is ALREADY IN HEAVEN well, they don’t NEED ANY PRAYERS
SO THAT WOULD BE SUPERFLUOUS AND FOOLISH TO PRAY FOR THE DEAD!!
FROM THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIANITY there was this notion that, “Ok if I die in friendship with God and yet I’m not fully ready to enter God’s presence because I’m attached to sin, because my heart hasn’t been prepared. I mean, I can die in friendship with God and still not be READY at the depths of my heart to enter into God’s presence.”
There is this PROCESS OF PURIFICATION that happens
Now a lot of different Protestant denominations have that DOCTRINE OF PURIFICATION
It might be INSTANT in some formulations of different denominations
The REALITY of it is NECESSARY
C.S. Lewis talked about it A LOT
Fr. Mike is talking about THE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY (OOOOOH SCARY WORD!!! No it isn’t, I PROMISE!!! 😉 It’s actually a very lovely word...there are many resources out there to learn about this doctrine. I highly recommend you dig deeper and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the truth)
Fr. Mike wanted to avoid this word because sometimes there’s a lot of baggage with the word (For our International brothers and sisters “a lot of baggage” means turmoil from the past basically 😁)
We recognize here in 2 Maccabees Ch 12 the WORD OF GOD ITSELF talks about PRAYING FOR THE DEAD
Again which would be SUPERFLUOUS if someone was in HELL because it’s USELESS
And it would be UNNECESSARY if someone was in HEAVEN because it’s USELESS
If there is a PROCESS OF PURIFICATION that happens...
C.S. Lewis, our buddy, said, “Of course I believe in Purgatory. Imagine you arrive at the Gates of Heaven. Even if the Angels and the Saints and the Lord God Himself said, ‘Come in! Come in! Come in and celebrate!’ But you realize that you’re dressed in filthy rags and need to clean up. And they might even say, ‘We don’t care about that here. Just come in and experience joy!’ The person, the soul might say, ‘That’s wonderful. But even so, I’d rather be cleaned up first.’”
We recognize in the Catholic DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY there are CONSEQUENCES to our sins
Those consequences are not just, “If I hurt someone, they’re hurt. If I lie or gossip, that relationship is broken.”
Some of the consequences of sin are that it HURTS MY HEART and IT SHAPES ME
In some ways we find ourselves UNABLE TO LOVE GOD AS HE DESERVES
Heaven is what?
HEAVEN IS GOD HIMSELF!!
HEAVEN isn’t just walking around playing golf
HEAVEN isn’t just I get my puppy back you know or whatever
(HEAVEN isn’t just the Washington Redskins beating the Dallas Cowboys every single time from now until the end of time 😉)
GOD BLESSES US!!
GOD LOVES US!!
So sure, obviously ALL CREATION is going to be redeemed
Maybe there are golf courses in Heaven, who knows?
That’s not what we are talking about now
The reality is if someone says, “Well will there be golf in heaven?”
And someone says, “Well if you need golf in heaven to be happy, then there’ll be golf in heaven.”
Or “Will my dog be in heaven?” (ALL dogs go to heaven. I’ve seen proof. There’s a movie with that title. No backsies 😉)
And someone says, “Well if you need your dog in heaven to be happy, then your dog will be in heaven.”
The reality, of course is, that for ALL those in HEAVEN, they won’t NEED golf or their dog to be happy
Because ALL THOSE IN HEAVEN find their HEART’S REST, find THEIR HEART’S DESIRE in GOD HIMSELF!!
BECAUSE HEAVEN IS GOD HIMSELF!!
Yes, it is the COMMUNION OF SAINTS as well
Yes, it is ALL THOSE OTHERS IN HEAVEN LIVING IN COMMUNION
ULTIMATELY HEAVEN IS GOD HIMSELF!!
And we realize something about our hearts
Our heart does not love God like that
We are not ready
We love God AND the stuff of this world
We love God AND…
Not only do We love God AND the stuff of this world
We love God AND we love our SINS
THAT IS THE REALITY OF IT!!
FOR ALL OF US!!
WE DO NOT WANT TO LOVE OUR SIN!!
WE DON’T LIKE THAT!!
WE DON’T BRAG ABOUT IT!!
I LOVE GOD AND I LOVE MY SIN
I LOVE GOD AND I LOVE OTHER THINGS
God sometimes has RIVALS just like the Book of Wisdom of Solomon talks about
GOD HAS RIVALS FOR MY HEART
And so we realize our hearts need to be PURIFIED
Our hearts need to be shaped in such a way that WE LOVE GOD ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE
That is what the PROCESS OF PURIFICATION is all about
That is what PURGATORY is all about
It’s a place...and entry way into heaven...whatever this process is
This process by which our hearts right now, beating in our chests, our love for the Lord that is in this world is SOMEHOW by God’s GRACE AND MERCY is somehow PURIFIED by God’s GRACE AND MERCY
SO THAT WE CAN LOVE HIM THE WAY HE DESERVES!!
Do you think that is a CONTRARY DOCTRINE TO ANYTHING?
IT JUST MAKES SENSE!!
If you and I look into our hearts we would say, “Oh my gosh! I don’t love God the way that he deserves. Something needs to change between me NOW and me IN HEAVEN.”
We give it a name...
We give it a name
This is a long day
So Fr. Mike wants to highlight this DOCTRINE that maybe YOU struggle with
Maybe YOU have never heard of it before
Maybe YOU did not understand what it was before
Hopefully it makes sense now
And if not…
Because we are all on our journey
We are all on the way
We are all asking the Lord to purify our hearts
LONG DAY TODAY!!
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thank you so much for this day and thank you so much for bringing us to this new day, Day 309. We thank you for keeping us faithful. You are faithful, even when we are not. Even when we are fickle, you are faithful. Even when we’re uncertain, you are the Rock, the Foundation. You are Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone. And so in your name we ask that you please help us in our weakness, help us in our unsteadiness, help us in every day to see you, the One True God, Jesus Christ whom you sent, and the Holy Spirit to live by your Power. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”