We remember our beloved dead today in our prayers, at Mass, and by visiting their grave sites at the cemetery. They have entered the final leg of their journey to heaven, and while they do continue to suffer they are already guaranteed the victory Christ won for them. That is the big difference between them and we who are still on our earthly pilgrimage. Suffering and purification are a necessary component of our salvation. Part of being saved is being transformed and changed by God’s grace and mercy. Once we have turned our lives over to our Lord Jesus Christ and received his Love and Mercy, we begin our journey to heaven. That journey is complete when nothing in our hearts remains attached to sin, to worldly pleasures and pursuits, to vice or to evil.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
Zacchaeus was leader of the tax collectors, a man entirely abandoned to greed, whose only goal was the increase of his gains. This was the practice of the tax collectors, although Paul calls it idolatry,4 possibly as being suitable only for those who have no knowledge of God. Since they shamelessly, openly professed this vice, the Lord very justly joined them with the prostitutes, saying to the leaders of the Jews, “The prostitutes and the tax collectors go before you into the kingdom of God.”5 Zacchaeus did not continue to be among them, but he was counted worthy of mercy at Christ’s hands. He calls near those who are far away and gives light to those who are in darkness.
Though death is something everyone must face, we feel a strong instinctive conviction that it is something unintelligibly negative. The raw ugliness of it could kill our sense of purpose, so forgetting about it would seem to help us simply get on living. While the morose and morbid can become an unhealthy obsession, the fact of our mortality forces the way we understand and live life into perspective. If our capacity for life and activity ends with death, we have to wonder if what we are could somehow be greater than all our activity. Attempting to be happy requires some kind of activity – indeed happiness itself must be the kind of activity which makes existing meaningful and good. If the activity of happiness itself becomes impossible at death, our act of existing would contain an internal contradiction. So if we reject skepticism, and hope to find the happiness that makes sense of our existence, we must also be certain this happiness is possible beyond death. Without that certitude, we are forced to ignore death, flee from it, or thrust ourselves into it prematurely out of despair.