Aflame with the love of God

Heart Aflame by Anne Cameron Cutri

Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

When St . Paul writes that he doesn’t want us to be unaware
about those who have fallen asleep,
he’s not referring to folks taking a nap or getting a good night’s rest:
he’s writing about the sleep of death.

And he doesn’t want us to grieve like those who have no hope.

What is our hope?

Our hope is that those who have died
will share in the peace, the joy, the life of the risen Jesus.
We pray with that hope every Sunday when we say in the Creed:
We look for the resurrection of the dead 
and the life of the world come. 

And every Sunday, in the prayers of the faithful
and in the Eucharistic Prayer,
we pray for those who have died.

Why do we do that?
Why do we pray for those who have died?

The answer to that question might be found in today’s gospel.
There we have 10 bridesmaids:
5 have oil for their lamps and 5 do not.
And all 10 of them doze off when the groom is late in coming.

Now you don’t need to be a scripture scholar to understand
that the groom is Christ, coming at the end of time
when, the Lord “will come down from heaven
and those who have “died in Christ will rise” with him to glory.

That will happen at the end of time --
but what of us who die before then?
What of the ones we will remember in our prayers today?
What of us who one day will be prayed for by those we left behind?

At the heart of all our life and worship as Catholic Christians,
we are a people who remember…

We remember Christ, and all he did for us;
we remember how he suffered, died and rose for us;
and what he gave us at table on the night before he died.

And every time we celebrate the Eucharist
we remember someone who has died:
we remember our brother, Jesus.

And we remember others who have died, too.
You know the words as well as I do:
Remember our brothers and sisters
who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again;
bring them and all the departed
into the light of your presence…

We remember everyone who has died
and we pray that through God’s mercy and love
each of them will enjoy the light and peace of God, forever.

Of course, we remember and pray most easily
for those we love and miss the most.
At Mass, my heart seldom fails to remember my mother and father:
others, too – but always them.

I’m sure there are beloved names that come to your heart, too.
We pray for all who have died
and we pray for those who have no one to pray for them.

But why do we pray for them? What do we pray for them?

Our knowledge of human frailty and our faith in God’s mercy
tell me that when I die I might not be altogether ready
to enter and receive what God has prepared for me.

I suspect I’ll need some finishing work, some fine-tuning
to make me worthy of what he promises me.

My whole life on earth is a journey to the dwelling place
Christ has readied and reserved for me in his Father’s house.

Sometimes I stay right on the path that leads me home,
and sometimes I take short cuts or make detours,
and sometimes, sadly, I even turn around
and walk in the other direction!

So it might be, it’s even likely, that at the end of my life
the rough edges of my sins will need the hand of God’s mercy.

The Church has long taught that after death,
we might need some further purification, a purging, a purgatory.
A purgatory? Yes. A final purifying of my life before God.

Five centuries ago, St. Catherine spoke beautifully of purgatory as
God’s love burning the soul until it’s entirely aflame
-- with the love of God:
until nothing is left of my sin
and all that's left is my love for God.

If there is pain in purgatory,
it is the pain of longing to be with the Beloved, with God:
to be worthy of the heaven Jesus won for us.

And so we pray for those who have gone before us
that God will bring to completion the good work begun in their lives
while they were still with us.

We cannot know how or even if time is measured in this purification.
Perhaps it’s but one second of finally and fully realizing
the fidelity of God’s love for us
and acknowledging how unfaithful, in return, we often were.
Perhaps it’s a second, or a day, or a month, or a year or years:
we don’t know.
It will be as long as God takes to purify us
of having taken his love and mercy for granted.

We don’t know how long, we only know, with grateful hope,
that even those who die without enough oil in their lamps
can still be made ready heaven’s joy.

That is what we pray, and that is why we pray, for those who have died.

Each week, after we profess, in the Creed, our faith in the resurrection,
we come to the altar where even now, in our brokenness,
the mercy of God breaks through
in the sacrifice and sacrament of the One
who was first to rise to new life.
We come to the table of him whose mercy purifies us even now.

We are not worthy of our place here
but the mercy of God supplies what we are lacking
and invites us, sinners,
to a taste and a sip of that feast which will be ours
in the life of the world to come.


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1 comment:

  1. I remembered this little, well known prayer-
    it is not one I pray often, but it is fitting, I think-
    and I think I may start praying this more-

    now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep
    if I should die before I wake
    I pray the Lord my soul to take


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