During this month of November, we have the tradition of praying for our deceased loved ones. We do this for several reasons. First, we pray for them because it is a noble and holy thing to do. Second, in praying for them we recognize that one day we, too, will pass from this life to the next. Third, as mentioned last week, when we pray for others, the blessings return to us. Fourth, those who are in purgatory are unable to pray for themselves. They rely on our prayers (and God’s mercy) to release them from their state of purgation (or purification). One of the penances that I often dispense is asking the penitent “to pray for the poor souls in purgatory.” Some may think that this is a “light penance.” However, it is extremely important. Our prayers do have an effect on the lives of others. There is power in our prayer. When we offer prayers of supplication on behalf of another, God hears and answers.
Notice how Jesus’ ministry (Luke 19:1-10) had an effect on Zacchaeus: He underwent a conversion experience. Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and wanted to see him. In seeing Jesus, Zacchaeus was moved to change his whole way of life. In a similar way, our prayers for others may cause them to have a similar change of heart.
The Book of Wisdom (11:22-12:2) reminds us that God overlooks people’s sins that they may repent. Perhaps we should take this to heart as well. When someone does something wrong, do we remind them of it? Do we focus on people’s sins and transgressions and past mistakes instead of recognizing their progress and spiritual development? In seeing Zacchaeus the man, instead of seeing Zacchaeus the sinful tax collector, Jesus allowed Zacchaeus to come to a conversion. Jesus didn’t tell him what to do, Zacchaeus already knew. He told Jesus what he intended to do to make up for his past sins.
So too it is with us, we know what needs to be done in our lives to manifest our conversion of heart. We know the behaviors and attitudes that need to be changed in order to become better Christian men and women. Hopefully, we will be able to change them during our lifetime so that our time of purification may be shorter.