On the Way to Heaven

I like to think it’s all about transformation here or hereafter that is if we choose by our lives to love God. Here is a homily given on All Souls Day-2014 by  Fr. Michael DePalma
“-Padre Pio had many incredible, mystical gifts.  One such was the gift of being able to witness many souls in Purgatory who came to visit him during the course of a typical day.  Often they would just be there, asking him to pray for their intercession. Other Franciscan priests have verified this, because on occasion they themselves were also able to see the person who had come to visit Padre Pio.
-But on one occasion Padre Pio was in the choir loft after the church was locked saying his prayers when he heard what sounded like a candlestick falling.  He looked down from the loft and saw a Friar moving around the altar.  So he shouted down to him asking who he was and what was he doing there. The friar said that he was visiting.  Padre Pio came down the stairs and asked which monastery he was from.  The friar said, “This one.”  Padre Pio replied, “How could that be, I’ve been here for years and I have never seen you.”  The friar said, “I was here 100 years ago.  I was the sacristan.” It was then that Padre Pio noticed that the friar had been dusting the candlesticks on the altar.
-And the friar at the altar turned to Padre Pio and said that he was sent from Purgatory for he had been there 100 years and no one had ever prayed for him. He was requesting Padre’s prayers. Padre Pio asked the friar what did he do to merit Purgatory and the friar answered that when he was saying Mass, and when he was performing his duties as sacristan, he wasn’t always reverent to the Holy Eucharist.  He was very sloppy, especially around the altar.  The next morning Padre Pio said Mass for the intention of this friar, and he was able to mystically see this poor soul from Purgatory enter into heaven itself.
– “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”  Only the pure get to go to heaven.  That is why so many saints and theologians have said over the centuries that for those who will avoid going to hell, the majority of people will have to go through Purgatory first, before receiving the great reward of heaven.
-Though it sounds a bit cheesy, it is still true:  heaven is for people who are dying to get there.  And anything that gets in the way of us getting to our eternal home has to go, has to be removed—we have to die to ourselves.
-But most of us are not at that point yet.  We are still too attached to our ways:  to our hatred and anger, to our gossiping, to our lustfulness, to our overindulgences, to our selfish thoughts.
We need purification.  We need Purgatory.
-However, belief in Purgatory has declined in modern times because the modern mind has forgotten two extremely important things:  the purity of God, and the horror of sin.
-Because so many people today are used to getting away with so much that they should not be doing, we have to admit that our teachers, our bosses, our husbands or wives, our mothers or fathers would be amazed to know all of the stuff that we do behind their backs.  And we just continue with that attitude, going so far as to think that even God is not aware of what we are doing, or if He is, no worries, He will just let us slide.
-Purgatory is where we are refined by the fire of God’s love.  And though the souls in Purgatory know that they will eventually make it to heaven, still, the time spent there is painful because of the purifying fire removing the impurities and sinful tendencies from their lives.
-The pain of Purgatory is necessary because sin always does damage—sometimes great damage.  Sin is always violent, and the damage caused by sin needs to be repaired.  We are not only supposed to be purified before we go to heaven, but the repair for the damage caused by our sins has to be taken care of, either here on earth or in Purgatory.
-Sure, God is love, and God is merciful, but God is perfectly just, and so, all of the damage of sin will have to be set right.
-The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:  “Purgatory is a state of final purification after death, where before one is able to enter the joy of heaven, there is a final cleansing of human imperfection.”
-But why does the CCC call it a state of purification?
-Well, Purgatory is not really a place, but is rather a condition of purification, so that when the last person leaves Purgatory, it will cease to exist.
-But know something and know something well:  Purgatory can be avoided.  But unfortunately, most non-Catholic Christians don’t even believe in Purgatory, and many Catholics see it as some sort of a loophole, or safety net.
-There is a very bad and dangerous attitude among many Catholics who think that they will just go ahead and have their fun, get away with as much as they can, somewhere along the line make a prayer of faith or have some sort of conversion and just barely make it into Purgatory by the skin of their teeth.  And hey, if they have to spend a couple of hundred years there, well so what, they will still make it to heaven some day.
-What a horrible attitude to have.  Don’t you dare “settle” for Purgatory.  You set your aim, your goal on heaven.  And if you fall short, ok, then you will go through the purifying fires.  Because if you take Purgatory for granted, there is a huge tendency to not do your best and thus risk, and in some cases greatly risk falling short of Purgatory.  Don’t ever forget, in the end there are only two places where a person can end up:  heaven or hell.
-Now speaking of places where one goes after death, recently Pope Benedict XVI stated that the Church has decided to do away with the theory of limbo.  I bet that many of you were taught that limbo was the place where those who died before being baptized, especially children were sent.
-However, limbo was always a theory, a speculation, and was never an official dogma of the Church.  But many people took the Pope’s proclamation to mean that if there is no limbo, then there is no Purgatory either.  Nope.  Purgatory is a dogma, an official teaching of the Church that must be believed.
-This is very important because of all of our loved ones who have died.  Today, the feast day of All Souls, is when we traditionally pray for those who have gone before us.  But we do not only remember them, we can actually do something wonderful for them.
-So many people have done great things for us in this life who are no longer here on this earth.  But we should not just remember those good times, but we should always pray for those people.
-Now true, some people have been given “signs” that a loved one is now in heaven.  But those are very rare.  And of course with the saints, we know they are in heaven because of miracles done through their prayers.  For the vast majority of us, because we are limited in our human natures, we don’t know where the souls of faithful departed go right after death.  And remember, many saints in their teachings have said that most people who died are not fully in a state of grace, and thus they will have to first go to Purgatory.  But for many of us we just assume that our loved ones have already made it to heaven.  And thus, we do not pray for them.
-We definitely live in an “out of sight, out of mind” culture, where thoughts of death are constantly avoided.  But let us remember often the souls in Purgatory, especially those who have helped us the most in this life.  Do not let your loved ones be forgotten like the friar who visited Padre Pio who had gone 100 years without someone praying for him to get out of Purgatory.
-After a person dies we can no longer do things for them as we did when they were with us here.  But love does not stop at the grave.  Love is eternal.  And we can go past the grave to Purgatory itself through the means of our prayers.  Prayer is our way of telling our loved ones who have left us that we still love them dearly and always will, especially when it comes to offering our Mass intentions for their souls in Purgatory.
-Remember one more great fact:  for those of our family and friends who may still be in Purgatory, don’t ever forget that they are present with us every time we have Mass.  There are here, right now with us, along with all of the saints and angels in heaven.  We are definitely not alone.  That should change the way we look at the Mass.  They are here.
-And that should also change the way that we hear the final dismissal for the Mass.  One of the options that the priest or the deacon can say is:  “Go forth, the Mass is ended.”  That message is for all of us, to take Christ with us as we leave.  But that message can also be for a soul in Purgatory who was remembered, for what if this was the Mass that released them to see God face to face in heaven?  Then what comfort and joy would it be for them to hear those words: “Go forth, go in peace, your time in Purgatory has been spent, go and enter the bliss, the unending joy
that is heaven itself.”