A newborn baby is not yet able to walk or run, not yet able to chew, not yet able to speak or read, not yet able to understand a joke.
Newborn babies are alive, but not all their built-in abilities are working yet.
When we sinners die, we are like newborn babies: we are not instantly able to enjoy heaven.
Until the moment of death we remain free and able to sin— even if we might be the holiest persons alive.
Until the moment of death we continue to have sinful tendencies.
When we die, God must remove sin and its effects from us so that we are completely free and able to enjoy heaven.
That process is purgatory.
As a negative process, purgatory means God is purifying us of sin and its effects so that we enter heaven free and clean.
As a positive process, purgatory means God is waking up our souls, turning on all the lights inside us, making us fully able to run in heaven, fully able to see heaven, fully able to hear heaven, fully able to enjoy and celebrate in heaven.
When we pray and sacrifice on behalf of the dead— as we do especially today— we are helping those souls who died still needing purification before they can enter heaven.
Some persons doubt that the Church has the power to do anything for persons who have died.
However, in Matthew 18:18, Christ tells his followers:
Truly, I say to you,whatever you bind on earthshall be bound in heaven,and whatever you loose on earthshall be loosed in heaven.
Christ gave the Church— ON EARTH— authority and power IN HEAVEN.
Some might say that when persons die they go either straight to hell or straight to heaven, because there is no such thing as purgatory.
Do you remember that Jesus raised from the dead a 12-year old girl, his own friend Lazarus, and the son of a widow?
If those three persons were already in the eternal glory of heaven, why would God bring them back to earth to suffer more and die again?
On the other hand, if they were already in hell, Jesus consistently taught that being in hell is everlasting.
Those three persons whom Jesus raised from the dead were neither in eternal damnation nor in eternal glory.
The Church specially devotes the second day of November to prayer and penance on behalf of those Christians who have died serving the Lord but still needing to be purified of the effects of sin.
The Church has authority from the Son of God to set those persons free for heaven.
Since Christ gave the Church authority to bind and to release on earth and in heaven, the Church authorizes each one of us to participate in helping souls enter heaven.
One way each of us can do that is to visit a cemetery each day from today through November ninth and pray for the faithful departed.
A second way is to come to church today and pray here for the faithful departed.
What we are doing today here in church, I hope someone will do for me when I die.
I hope the same for each one of you.
The souls that we help to enter heaven will join all the angels and saints in helping us by their prayers.
May the souls of the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.