Pray for the Dead

If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10 WEB)

On weekends I like to sleep in and enjoy a rested start to the day. I consider sleeping late to be anything past seven in the morning. My wife, Beth, felt this was way too early for anyone to stir. When we were first married I’d arise early and wander about our small apartment. After an hour or so of reading, looking out the window and boredom, I’d wander back to the bedroom.

Snuggling up to my lovely sleeping wife I’d whisper, “Are you every going to get up?” It sometimes took a few renditions, with increased volume, before she would open one eye and see me smiling down at her. It was then I would look innocent and say, “Oh, were you still asleep? I didn’t mean to wake you.” She never believed me.

One Saturday morning, on Guam, we were awakened to the mournful sounds of what must have been a dying moose or other large animal outside our apartment. Our daughter, Ellice, and son, Joel, came bounding into our room, climbed across the bed so we could see the unusual looks on their faces. It was a mixture between concern and curiosity.

“What’s up guys,” I asked them as they scampered across the covers, elbows and knees thumping us to wakefulness. Beth opened one eye and sniffed to see if there was breathable air.

“There are people across the street,” said Ellice, “doing weird things.”

“In the graveyard?” I asked. I piled up my pillows and slid to a sit against the headboard.

“What sort of things?” asked Beth finally opening the other eye peeking from the safety of her blanket.

“Making weird noises and burning stuff,” responded Ellice curling her nose as if she were smelling a rotten apple.

“Let’s take a look,” I said. I tossed off the covers, Beth pulled them close and burrowed deeper.  The children and I headed to the front door.

Our flat was situated on the second floor of a four unit apartment across the street from the local cemetery. The graveyard was sandwiched between the road and the shoreline. We surveyed the fence bound graves. A lot of people stood next to gravestones or wandered around looking for a lost relative’s last resting places. Once the graves were identified each person or family stood by a particular stone with flowers in hand.

Near one end, under the shade of a concrete cabana, stood the local priest. Dressed in flowing regalia and donning a spectacular liturgical hat he chanted some liturgy, in Latin, or the local language. The people responded at the appropriate time with somber melodies in agreement. Back and forth the invocation was proclaimed and the musical affirmation responded.

The people, with priestly guidance, were praying for their relatives to depart purgatory and enter heaven. Candles, invocations, penance, all struggled together to assure them the dead would rise again to Heaven. Uncertainty brought them back year after year.

It was an eerie sight which chilled our hearts. Their religion held no concrete answers. Their faith reminded us again of God’s grace and love. Heaven awaits us, we are sure. It is not our candles, music, or attendance which opens the pearly gates. It is the saving grace God has provided through His son on the cross.

We are staunch believers in the security of the believer. God has brought us into His kingdom and we are his. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:29 WEB)

With our children we watched people, unsure of their eternal destination, giving all they could to possibly enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The need is great . . . the workers are few . . . PRAY.

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