Praying for the Dead

Lincoln’s Log 11-11-12
“Therefore he [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Mac 12:45)
“Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”
St. John Chrysostom
This week we celebrated the feast of All Soul’s day, a day when we pray for all those who have died. At our parishes we have “Remembering Services” and spend time thinking about our loss, our mortality, and our eternal destiny.
Why do we pray for the dead? On one level, it is simply instinct. When someone we love has died, we miss them and long to talk to them. There is a void in our soul. Something is missing and we are incomplete, so we reach out with our thoughts and words to connect with the person who is gone.
Sometimes we are afraid. The reality of death comes home to us when we are confronted personally by the death of someone we love. This fear can move us to cry out to God. We don’t know exactly what happens after death. It is a mystery to us so we try to reach out beyond the mystery and connect.
On a purely human level, fear and loss lead us to pray for the dead.
But there is more to it than that. There is more than psychology. The fundamental reason that Catholics pray for the dead is because of love. We know that “neither death, nor life, nor any other creature will be able to separate us fro the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38). Love conquers all. Death does not have the power to end a relationship of love.
Just as we would pray for someone during their lifetime, we can pray for them after death. We are motivated by love. The mystery of death is conquered by the mystery of love.
This month, as we continue to pray for the dead in a special way, let’s always remember that it is love’s victory over death that is at the root of all of our prayers for the dead.
Lincoln A. Wood

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