The final transformation

By Fr. Mark Vander Steeg | October 30, 2014

On the feast of All Souls we pray for all the dead, trusting that our prayers help those that have not yet reached the fullness of perfect union with God. Our prayers in this life assist the dead through our union with them as the mystical body of Christ. St. Paul refers to this union in Colossians 1:24 when he states that “he makes up in his body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the body, the church.” This ability to aid others through our prayers is not ended in death, neither for the giver nor the receiver.

The practice of praying for those who have died and asking them to pray for us is found inscribed on Christian tombs and funeral memorials from the earliest centuries. And in the writing of the early church fathers, such as St. Augustine’s exchange with his mother where he records her asking him that she be remembered in his Mass following her death.

Why do the dead need our prayers? When we die, it is fair to say that most of us do not die the persons we were fully called to be this side of heaven. We may very well be saved through the death and resurrection of Christ and entering the fullness of eternal life, but for most of us, the transformation into the “saint” whom we were always called to be, may not yet be complete. There may be elements of our heart, mind, soul and strength that are not yet fully moving in perfect union with God’s ways and life.

This perfect union with God is a key aspect of eternal life. God in his great mercy, through the grace of his Son’s death and resurrection, permits us after death to finally become whom we were meant to be. There is a certain “letting go,” perhaps of fallen ways, a purification and even suffering of sorts. This spiritual transformation continues after death. We remain free after death to assent to the grace of this transformation and we are not forced. Most of our transformation should be done here in this life.

We call this transformation purgatory. Pope Benedict XVI, quoting the mystics, said that it was not so much a place as it is more a process of entering eternal life. It allows us to enter the fullness of God’s presence at peace with God, ourselves and with those we may have harmed along the way. It is the final preparation for eternal union with God amidst the community of persons in heaven. When we think of “process” we instinctively correlate it with “time.” In heaven of course there is no “time” so the experience of final transformation is a part of eternity with God. Persons experiencing purgatory are saved and destined for the fullness of heaven. They are not going to hell. We pray for them in order to assist them in their final passage, especially through the offering of a Mass. The Mass has power because it is the death and resurrection of Christ made present to us. Where in your life are you presently undergoing the transformation toward eternal life? Where is God already beginning this process?

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top