Members of the Lord’s Body
I hope that this little commentary finds you all well as we approach Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. This set of feast days is one of my favorite times of year because it reminds us of what the Church really is, and what kind of a fam-ily we are part of.
The Church, of course, is not what the world thinks she is. She is not just an organization or institution, in which a person might have a membership as long or a short as they like. She is not even just one among many world religions, or one among many Christian denominations, good for whoever chooses that path, but not fundamentally different from any of the other spiritual paths. We know that the Church is unique in that she is one living being, a someone, both larger and more united by grace than a family is by blood. We know that through the Church, individual people become one living body with Jesus Christ, and with all other Christians in union with that body throughout time and across the globe.
This truth is what gives these feast days, All Saints and All Souls, their true power.
All Saints, we know, calls to mind all of the Christians who have gone before us in a state of perfection, and who now live in peace forever in Heaven. It’s not just a celebration of their example or of their goodness, but is a celebration of the fact that we too, as members of the same body, have ourselves already begun to enter Heaven. We celebrate the joy of knowing that hope has already been fulfilled for some members of the body, and now they call to us to encourage us and draw us on, knowing that we too can hope in the immortal life of glory. We also celebrate the fact that we are still in union with all those who have entered Heaven, including whoever of our loved ones is there, so long as we remain right with God and united to the body of the Church. What a consolation! Not a single Christian is ever alone, but is always joined by the love of all the saints! What courage we can take!
All Souls, on the other hand, calls to mind all those who have died in friendship with God, but who are still being per-fected through Purgatory. We know that every soul in Purgatory will enter Heaven in the end, and that this “middle place” is a great sign of God’s love for us. Even though nothing imperfectly joined to Christ, in fact nothing imperfect in any way, could ever enter heaven, God still offers us a way to Him if we have not reached that perfection by the end of our lives. He loves us enough to purify us after death, so long as we have at least accepted and kept His offer of friendship, and He allows us to help one another reach this perfection by means of prayers for the dead, to which the month of November is dedicated. Be-cause we are all members of the same one living body, whatever good we do can have an effect on every other part of the body.
All of these thoughts should expand our hearts in love for the saints in Heaven, the souls in purgatory, and all our brothers and sisters joined to Christ through His Church here on Earth. We express that ardent charity by praying to the saints in heaven, praying for the souls in Purgatory, and praying with all those still living who make up the Church across the globe. May your feasts be joyful, dear friends, and let’s pray for each other that we all remain in the body of the Lord forever!