By now we are well into our observance of Lent and the penitential practices that come with them. As I wrote in my last message, we do not walk alone in our journey with Christ, but are united with all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body the Church. All the sacrifices and aggravations, big and small, that we endure in faith and cheerfulness have a positive effect on others. We become imitators of St. Paul who wrote that his sufferings were “filling up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24) This is not to suggest that Jesus’ redemptive death was not enough to save the world, but rather that in His plan God has made us active participants in the work of salvation.
The Church is a reality of earth, purgatory and heaven. We on earth are pilgrims on the journey of faith. Those in purgatory are experiencing the final purification before entering into the direct presence of God. Those in heaven see our Lord face to face and are already rejoicing in His glory. We should not think of these as “places” separated by walls. These profound realities are interconnected mysteriously and are in communion with each other, all sharing the spiritual goods of the One Church. The saints in heaven pray for us as one friend may pray for another, and we should not be afraid to ask for their help. We assist the souls in purgatory on their journey by our prayers and hardships offered for their cause. Some spiritual writers have suggested that those in purgatory are already praying for us now out of gratitude. What is sure is that they will not forget us when they finally reach paradise. Our efforts can also help to bring sinners back to Christ here on earth. This relationship that I write of what we call the Communion of Saints that we profess at every Sunday Mass in the Creed.
So when we are faithful to our Lenten practices and when we endure the difficulties of daily life with joy we are doing more than helping ourselves on the road to heaven. We are sharing with others a precious gift. So be faithful! Don’t be discouraged into thinking that Lent is too long and our efforts are wasted! With the Grace of Jesus Christ all is possible. He is the one who takes our works and perfects them for the good of the entire Church, which is His Body.