Thirty-first week in Ordinary time

Monday 2 November
Commemoration of the Faithful departed
2 Maccabees 12.43-45
Romans 5.5-11; John 6.37-40
(readings at the choice of the priest)

The account of Judas Maccabeus arranging a sin-sacrifice for Jewish soldiers who had dabbled in idolatrous practices has for centuries been part of traditional Christian prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: indeed this may be one reason why Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformers wanted to excise 2 Maccabees and the other deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament. St Paul’s eloquent vision from Romans 5 of the effects of Christ’s death on the cross gives us confidence in the face of death; Jesus in John’s gospel makes explicit the promise of eternal life to those who believe in him.

All Souls’ Day, the ‘day of the dead’ in many cultures, is when we pray for all the holy souls in Purgatory. Praying for the dead is not a gloomy exercise but an act of love and solidarity which makes this observance so important throughout the Catholic world. A hundred years ago, during the First World War, Pope Benedict XV allowed all priests to say three Masses on this day.

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