Many times in Christianity we must hold two things to be true simultaneously. Jesus is true God, and simultaneously true man. The Kingdom of God according to St. Luke 17:21 is within you. And yet we await the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom of God at the end of time.
Yesterday I wrote about how St. Paul refers to the members of the various churches as the saints and yet we know that the fullness of our sainthood is not yet here. In the fullest sense of the word the word saint applies to those whose souls are in heaven and who merely await the resurrection of their bodies. The final step.
There is only one catch. In heaven we must love God perfectly and love our neighbor perfectly. And once again we bump into the problem of free will. Not even after death does God take it away.
Right now, at this moment, which of us loves God or our neighbor perfectly? And if I died right this moment. That lack of perfect love would keep me from heaven.
I haven't rejected God, so I am not going to hell. But I need to be perfected. More precisely, I must allow God to perfect me, to purify me. To rid me of all those things that keep me from loving God and loving my neighbor perfectly. My last act of the will must be total and complete surrender, to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind. I must allow God to finish turning me into a saint in the fullest sense of the word.
The problem is that some of us don't quite want to surrender. Our hurts, our resentments, our prejudices have become that comfortable but ratty sweater we can't bear to throw away, our security blanket. We claim, "I have tried to forgive, but I can't." We hold on to injuries like precious souvenirs. We dislike people we have never even met.
Before we can enter heaven it all has to go, every single drop. We must not only love God perfectly, but every person created by God perfectly.
The good news is that God is ready to transform our love, and make it perfect, the moment we die. The process of perfecting us we call purgatory. It is the final purification of each soul that transforms our imperfect love into perfect love of God and neighbor.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. (1 Cor 13:12)
We shall see as God sees and love as God loves.
It is because the saints in heaven love as God loves that we know they continue to love us and pray to God for us. The care about the world as God cares about the world.
We call today All Souls' Day for short. It's actual title is the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. Think of all of your relatives who have departed this earthly life. And be honest, were there not many among them who were still carrying some kind of baggage: hurts, angers, prejudices. Today the church calls us to pray not only for friends and family but for
our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy: (Eucharistic Prayer II)
That all of these who have passed from this life we let go and surrender completely and be transformed into All Saints.