Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why Pray for the Dead?

(Part of the completion of this blogpost is credited to the Oct.31 episode of "KATEKS: Katesismo at Apolohetika"--a 60-minute apologetics program aired at Veritas 846 every Sunday from two to three in the afternoon.)

Most non-Catholics question our sentiment to our departed loved ones--most especially during the First and Second of November. They often rant that the dead cannot make up for their salvation; all Christians admit to that--especially us Catholics--in which we believe that we will lose our free will upon death. But, they ask, why bother praying for them? What is the use of it? 

According to what I heard to Bro. Marco Evangelista, the principal host of KATEKS, we Catholics believe in the power of prayer more than the Protestants and the Evangelicals do. One good example is that of Judas Maccabeus, when he discovered that some of his fallen comrades were found to be wearing amulets and anting-antings of all sorts, which fall under the sin of idolatry. Afterwards, he ordered his men to collect money as a sin offering to their acts, hoping that they may be cleansed from their sins (2 Mac. 12:38-45). The non-Catholic would of course demand more Scriptural references; besides, they do not have that in their Bible. 

One good verse about the power of prayer is what St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians (6:18-20):

"With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must." (NAB)

Verse 19 should be like this in Filipino:

"IPANALANGIN [din] NINYONG ako'y pagkalooban ng wastong pananalita upang buong tapang kong maipahayag ang hiwaga ng Mabuting Balitang ito." (MBB Catholic Version)

See? Even Paul, who is considered to be a great preacher of his time was ASKING PRAYERS from them; so that he may fight the good fight, finish his run, and preserve the faith (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7) which was the mission he accomplished in his martyrdom.

The Apostle James also wrote on how powerful prayer is (5:14-15):

"Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven."

It is stated here that the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is based on prayer and the hope for total recovery of the disabled recipient.

By praying for others and ourselves, we are hopeful that what we pray (combined with good intentions, of course) would be answered accordingly by God. So the bottomline of these three verses is that we Catholics hope for the better.

After answering about the power of prayer, they would soon ask: Why those who are living? Common sense! A non-Catholic--preferably an anti-Catholic--with this kind of counter-argument contradicts and debunks his first statement about the that could not do anything in their free will. But to make things Biblical, St. John's letter states that all sins are wrongdoings and that there are sins that are either mortal or venial (1 Jn. 5:16-17). For the case of both, we pray because we want to make our little part in leading the sinner in a state of metanoia, and later on, in a state of sanctifying grace, before it's too late. Again, we Catholics are hopeful that all sinners would turn away from their wickedness in this lifetime. But what if they didn't? what if he only saw death coming, and his last words were "My God, forgive me"? Would he be saved?

All Christians believe that souls would be destined between two places: Heaven or Hell. Those who are Heaven-bound basically followed what Jesus said in Matt. 7:21--which is the hard way up; while those who are Hell-bound should have been following the examples Jesus stated in Matt. 5:22, or those who were practicing those that are listed in Rev. 21:8; and as v.27a says: ...nothing that is impure will enter the city..."--this is the easy way down.

But what about those who die with a limited state of grace? of those who failed to confess their sins and do penance to them? Isn't it unfair that they would be denied of eternal happiness with God just because of that unrepented sin, which under certain circumstances, is but a grain of sand compared to the coastline of the soul?

This is where Purgatory, for us Catholics, comes in. Repeating 1 Jn. 5:17, "...all wrongdoing is sin, BUT THERE IS SIN WHICH DOES NOT LEAD TO DEATH." In a nutshell, Purgatory is a state of temporary imprisonment and purification, which term is Anglicanized from the Latin purgare--to clease, purify, or purge. To politicize, Purgatory is a correctional system that God created out of immense love; wherein souls are held as prisoners until they served their sentence: ["Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny" (Mt. 5:26)], which may last for centuries--or even millenia! It is said to be a foretaste of Hell, though the tortures and torments they receive is worth sanctifying. Literally and spiritually, they--the Church Suffering--are dependent prisoners who only hope in the mercy of God and the prayers of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. It is a hurting truth that souls should be purged first before they would be permitted to enter the Kingdom of Heaven:

"...NOTHING [that is] IMPURE WILL ENTER THE CITY...." (Rev. 21:27a)

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