|Souls in Purgatory|
St John Paul II taught that heaven and hell are more than places. They are states of union with God and separation from God respectively.
We are living a life of hell here on earth when we reject God. And we get a glimpse of heaven when we strive to live in union with him. This state of union or rejection of God continues and is completed after we die. However, there will be traces of this desire to sin against God even after we die. While St Paul did say we will be changed, in a moment, he did not mean our sinful desires will suddenly vanish at our death. He meant we will move from what is perishable to what is eternal. But our sinful desires will still remain because our souls will continue to possess those.
We will still continue to move towards perfect union with God even after we die until God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. This shows the mercy of God. Just think of it this way. If upon death, we will either go to heaven or hell, then most of us will go to hell. Since as we said, our sinful desires will remain even after our death, there will be no place to go but hell. If this is true, then God is not a God of mercy and this goes against what the First Reading says the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Those who strive to live in union with God on this earth seek him and God will save them by purifying them first so they can be fully united with him. This purification is called purgatory.
Many of us will pass through this stage of purification when we die, and hopefully, many of our loved ones have passed through this stage or are in this stage after their death. This is why it is erroneous to say of a person who has died that they are in heaven. When we say this, we deprive them of prayers to help them through their process of purification. We all want to eventually go to the stage Jesus described in the Gospel, where he gives us rest. We want this for ourselves and for our loved ones because this is perfect union with God. But most of those who have died need to be purified before we can reach that stage. This is why we pray for those who died, so our prayers can help them as they walk towards perfect union with God.
Lord, I pray for those who have died, my loved ones, my parents, grandparents, ancestors, friends and enemies. Have mercy on their souls and receive them to your kingdom. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them.