All Souls Day
Praying for Those Who Have Passed…
In 2nd Maccabees, we learn about men who prayed for their fellow soldiers who had died, after learning that those soldiers had sinned:
Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. – 2 Maccabees 12:42-46, NAB
What sin had these men committed? They were wearing amulets to a pagan god. This obviously violates the First Commandment – thou shall not have strange gods before me. Because of their sins, atonement was needed.
There are some great phrases in this verse that should give each of us comfort. The first is “… for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.” We, too, should feel the same way. We can find comfort in knowing that the dead can rise again, and our prayers are never wasted.
Also, it was said that this was a “holy and pious thought.” First we learn that the dead will definitely benefit from our prayers, and then we learn that it reflects positively on us, as well. Praying for the dead is not just a way of finding comfort in a time of mourning; it is also a way for us to actively practice our faith – showing God that we trust in His will.
The final thought that sticks out comes in the last line: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” Of course, it was not the amount of money they collected that made the difference; it was the heartfelt prayers and offerings on behalf of their fellow soldiers.
We could go into a much deeper discussion about Purgatory, praying for the dead, and what awaits us after this life is over, but we’ll save that for another time. What matters today, as we observe All Souls Day, is that we remember and pray for our departed brothers and sisters in Christ.
All Souls Day is a great time to remember those who made an impact on our lives. Take some time to pray for your loved ones who have passed. They will surely benefit from it, and so will you.