To infinity and beyond… the power to pray for the dead

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JESUS ​​is our ultimate link between earth and heaven, creatures and the Creator, time and eternity. The images help us to understand this link.

The famous saying of fictional character Buzz Lightyear – “To infinity and beyond!” – speaks of an endless human adventure.

Buzz is named after Apollo 11 astronaut and ordained Presbyterian elder Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, who was the second person to walk on the moon. Buzz Lightyear’s desire to “travel beyond” causes me to re-evaluate the Christian spiritual journey.

When I express my belief that God the Almighty Father is eternal – beginningless, endless, existing beyond time – then it becomes a privilege to explore how I can draw closer to Jesus, who empowers us all to enter “infinity and beyond”.

Let’s start with the Book of Exodus, with the prayerful encounter between God and Moses. God said, “I am He who is. That’s what you’ll say to the Israelites, ‘I am sent you to me.'”

God clearly explains to Moses that the true God is not one being among others. He is being. It is the foundation of all existence and is beyond the limits of space and time. In the eternal kingdom there is no past or future, everything happens to God at once in a simultaneous present. Our task is to understand things better, from God’s eternal point of view.

The story of divine revelation culminated with the coming of Jesus who declared, “I and the Father are one.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed to have seen Abraham, who had died hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

From a human point of view, Jesus’ statement is incredible, and the Jewish people respond: “You are not yet 50, and have you seen Abraham? But Jesus replied, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am,” reinforcing the affirmation of his eternal nature and union with God.

He insists that it was through God’s love for humanity that he came into the world and that he in turn shared his divine love for us by giving us the Holy Spirit, by saying, “He will always be with you. He dwells in you and will be with you.”

Through Baptism, each Christian receives the Holy Spirit, “clothes Christ” and becomes “partner of the divine nature”, gaining unique access to God, which can be renewed through prayer and the sacraments.

The Catechism underlines the profound impact of prayer by quoting Saint John Chrysostom: “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible, he makes possible, what is difficult, easy. We can pray for anyone in any place anytime.

Recognizing the immensity of God and his living presence among us eliminates any feelings of complacency that we may have and draws us into a deeper dependence on divine grace.

In his apostolic letter Gaudete et exsultate, (Rejoice and be glad), Pope Francis reminded us of the teaching of the Church, “that the gift of grace surpasses the power of the intellect and human will and that as far as God is concerned there is no strict claim to any merit on the part of man.

“Between God and us there is immeasurable inequality. His friendship surpasses us infinitely; we cannot buy it with our works, it can only be a gift born of his loving initiative.

“It invites us to live in joyful gratitude for this utterly undeserved gift, for after obtaining grace, grace already possessed cannot be earned.”

The Holy Father quoted Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: “On the evening of this life, I will appear before you empty-handed, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justices have spots in your eyes.

Being aware of the greatness of God and his loving involvement in our lives helps us to live each day in deeper trust and prayerful freedom.

Two years ago, the cemetery in my local parish was damaged, and the outcry caused me to think more about the Church’s emphasis on praying for the dead.

In the process, I learned that not all Christian denominations pray for the dead, many simply remember them. So I thought, “If someone died a long time ago, how can my prayers make a difference?” We answer this question by remembering that God exists in eternity, which is outside of space and time.

Therefore, whether we pray for someone during their lifetime, on the day of their funeral, or many years later, all prayers come to God simultaneously. Knowing that prayer is an entry into an eternal and timeless dimension gives us great confidence in the limitless love of God.

It reminds us that our prayers can have a positive impact on our deceased loved ones and are one of the most charitable things we can do.

When I hear the words of Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, I am led to a deeper sense of wonder, which Pope Francis calls “the essential religious mindset.” This leads me to Jesus, whom Pope Francis describes as our “ultimate source of wonder as Christians”.

It gives me a deeper appreciation of eternity and the world around me, which leads me to say, along with the psalmist:

“When I see the heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you set up-

What is the man for you to remember him,

and a son of a man whom you love for him?

Yet you made him less than a god,

crowned him with glory and honor.”

May we become more aware of the presence of God in our lives and have the grace and courage to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Son of God, our eternal King.

:: Brian Wilson grew up in Ballymena, County Antrim. He is a seminarian for the Diocese of Down and Connor at Venerable English College in Rome.

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