Last week’s article described the need for Purgatory in order for most people to reach perfection, and our calling to assist those undergoing this purification. This article will describe a complementary teaching, namely, that the saints in heaven assist us in our pilgrimage to the final homeland.
The Bible describes the Faithful departed interceding for their loved ones on earth. For example the Second Book of Maccabees recorded a vision of Judas Maccabeus, the Jewish leader in their war of independence. In that vision, he saw the recently murdered high priest Onias and the long-deceased prophet Jeremiah praying for their people. See 2 Macc. 15:12-16. During His public ministry, Jesus said the hour had come when the dead would hear His voice and be called, if they are willing to everlasting life. See John 5:35. Right after His death, many deceased Israelites arose and appeared to the living as Christ was leading them to heaven. See Matthew 27:51-52. The saints continue throughout history to care and pray for the Church and their people on earth. As Jesus said, there is great joy in heaven over every repentant sinner. See Luke 15:3-7. And, as the Letter to the Hebrew said, after describing the great figures of Jewish history, we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” as we “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Heb. 12:1-2.
And so the Church has ever venerated the saints as models of faith who inspire us to imitate them and as friends who pray for us and encourage us from their glorious realms. When we hear of news in the world, the situation may often seem to be confused and often discouraging. And the entertainment industry and popular culture frequently promote as celebrities people whose lives are hardly exemplary. But when we look upwards to the saints in the greater kingdom, we see a realm where human sin and failures are barriers that have been conquered, in which those who suffered innocently on earth are now at peace, in which all the humble service and prayers unrecognized on earth receive their rightful reward. This vision fills us with hope and desire to join their company. And when we know that these pure souls care deeply for us, we realize that we are not alone in our efforts, but rather have so many friends whom we will see one day and who will celebrate with us the victory of grace.