November is the month when we remember those who have gone before in death. Many Christian Churches celebrate the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls on the first two days of November. It is also customary that people in our area paint the tombs of their love ones before these feasts as a way of remembering them.
The canonized saints are people recognized for their holiness, their remarkable openness to God. They imitated Christ so closely that they become open to heroic possibilities in their lives. Those same possibilities are available to each of us. To be a saint like Christ, we must imitate his faith and compassion.
God wants all people to be saved. Jesus told us, “This is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose any one of those whom he gave me, but that I should raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:39) We are not just talking about Christians or believers. We are talking about all people without exception, whom God has given to Christ and for whom Christ died. God has only one family that includes all people. The Almighty is not going to condemn anyone who has never heard the Gospel preach to them.
Do you remember limbo? That was supposed to be a place that unbaptized babies would go. They were not baptized, so they could not go to heaven. However, they had not committed any sins, so they could not go to hell.
Some church officials speculated that there must be a place called limbo, a state of natural happiness where these poor babies would never see God.
Well, thank God further theological reflection and development help modify church teaching. Now we believe that unbaptized babies go to heaven.
Purgatory is for those of us who, when we die, are still sinners and have not yet reached the ultimate state of holiness. It is a final cleansing of anything that is not loving in us. We used to think that we would all have different lengths of time in purgatory depending of how much we held onto those things that were not of God.
Theologians now realized that once we die, we are in eternity where there is no time. So purgatory for everyone will be like taking a “good shower” before we come into the presence of an all-loving God. Our Savior is not going to torture us for a long period until we’re purified.
We still believe in hell but we no longer think of hell as a fiery pit, ruled over by the devil with his pitchfork. Theologians say that hell is separation from God for all eternity. That’s the hell of hell, separated from the source of all love. Only those who refuse to love God, neighbor and self are destined for hell.
We should keep our eyes, hearts and minds fixed on heaven, our final destination in our journey of life. The most consoling good news about heaven are Paul’s words, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it ever entered into anyone’s imagination what God has prepared for those who love God.” (I Cor. 2:9)
Heaven is not so much a place but a state, being with our Lover for all eternity. We can only begin to imagine what it will be like to experience the infinite love of God, perfect harmony and peace with all people and an opportunity to explore all of God’s creation.
During November, we remember all the saints and our loved ones not just to praise them, but to remind ourselves of our own vocation to holiness. When our life’s journey is over, may we meet Christ and all the saints who will welcome us into eternity.