In the month of November, we remember the souls in purgatory and we remember the words of St. Benedict exhorting us to pray with “tears of compunction”, which are necessary in order to have that purity of heart required in this life. This purity of heart not only aids our own souls but those of others – and for the souls of the departed. Our prayers and tears of compunction help those souls that are still in need of some purification. One of the most powerful things we can do for another soul – especially for one who is close to death – is to ask for their forgiveness. This reconciliation will lift an immense weight and allow peace to permeate the soul, both theirs and ours.
I read recently that after reading the Gospel the priest or deacon whispers quietly, after kissing the book, “Through the words of the Gospel, may our sins be wiped away.” How powerful. The Gospel should call us to repentance, call us to examine how we are living. The Good Thief understood this:
“One of the criminals on the cross began to shout insults at Jesus, ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Then save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal stopped him and said, ‘You should fear God. You are getting the same punishment he is. We are punished justly, getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you the truth. Today, you will be with me in paradise.’”
What a promise. Why did he receive this promise? Because he accepted his crucifixion because he knew it was just. He acknowledged his sinfulness before God; therefore, he was forgiven and received a treasure beyond expectation.
What would our treasure be if we all had the attitude of the Good Thief? When a difficult or trying situation is handed to us, do we willingly accept it as reparation for our sins and those of others, or do we run and hide? St. Paul says that “love covers a multitude of sin” because love is accepting, love doesn’t flee, love bears all things for the sake of Him who loves us. God sent His only Son to die out of love for us. How much more should we give ourselves out of love for God and for our brothers and sisters? The most important thing we can do – for our souls and for those of others – is to safeguard love.