Today the Church celebrates the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, often called All Souls Day. Yesterday we celebrated all the saints in white. We honor those have washed their robes and taken their place in heaven. Today we remember all our loved one’s who have died who are still in the process of being “cleaned up” for heaven. There is a tendency today to pretend that everyone goes to heaven, and that they do so immediately after death. The truth is that both heaven and hell are very real. Only people that are perfect enter heaven with the saints, so what about those that fall a little short of “perfect” in this life?
Today’s homily uses some lessons from the world of sports to help us understand our vocation better in this life. We understand in the world of sports that there are winners and losers. Part of the reason that winning is so meaningful is because losing is a very real possibility and losing is terrible. If everyone was a winner, or just “declared to be winners” such as Martin Luther might espouse, then there is really no reason to play the game. Winning wouldn’t mean anything. In the game of life there are winners in heaven and losers in hell. This ultimately should not scare us, but serve to make our lives meaningful. Our struggles matter. Our sufferings are not for no purpose. Fighting hard means we can win!
The good new is that, unlike the World Series where my beloved Kansas City Royals fell 90 feet short of being winners, God has an option not available to the world of sports. God loves us too much to simply allow us into heaven while we’re still losers, but he also loves us too much to send us to hell for being 90 feet short after an otherwise great season. If we truly live our lives loving God and doing the best we can, then God gives us the merciful opportunity to get cleaned up and truly become perfect in Purgatory before entering heaven.
Today we can truly assist our brothers and sisters who have died and can benefit from our prayers. We should also remember that life after death makes this present life all the more exciting. We are called to be winners, so we need to start competing well for the faith. The good news is that, unlike sports where every winner means there is also a loser, in life the only way we wind up losing is if we fail to try.