Answer: Because it is biblical and historical. And the Church Christ founded in Matthew 16:18 teaches it and the Bible teaches that the Church (Body of Believers) is the Pillar of Truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
Jews, Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification.
As Catholics we believe in Purgatory. This is why we pray for the dead.
Regarding this the Catechism says:
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1030–1).
The concept of an after-death purification from sin and the consequences of sin is also stated in the New Testament in passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:11–15:
For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.
and Matthew 5:25–26 -
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
We read in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46:
“In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin”
Many non Catholics do not have this book in their bible, because Martin Luther removed this book in the 1500’s. Christ and the Apostles used the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament Bible. Christ and the Apostles handed the Septuagint to the first Christians which contained the book of Maccabees. The question is regarding this book, who do you follow? Christ who used it or Luther who removed it? Catholics Follow Christ.
In the New Testament, in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, it reads as follows, “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not afraid of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!”
St. Paul speaks of Onesiphorus only in the past tense and many scholars believe he had passed away. If true this would be a form of prayer for the dead, St. Paul asking our Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day.
Early Church Fathers (First Christians):
St. Augustine - ”But by the prayers of the holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death." (Sermons 172:2)
Origen: "As John stood near the Jordan among those who came to be baptized, accepting those who confessed their vices and their sins and rejecting the rest ... so will the Lord Jesus Christ stand in a river of fire next to a flaming sword and Baptize all those who should go to Paradise after they die, but who lack purgation... But those who do not bear the mark of the first Baptism will not be baptized in the bath of fire. One must first be Baptized in water and Spirit so that, when the river of fire is reached, the marks of the baths of water and Spirit will remain as signs that one is worthy of receiving the Baptism of fire in Jesus Christ." (Origen, Commentary on Luke, 24th Homily, before 253 A.D)
Tertullian: "This place, the Bosom of Abraham, though not in Heaven, and yet above hell, offers the souls of the righteous an interim refreshment until the end of all things brings about the general resurrection and the final reward." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4:34, before 220 A.D.)
“We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]” (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]).
“A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice” (Monogamy 10:1–2 [A.D. 216]).
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job l:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 (A.D. 392)).
There are many many more early Church Father Quotes of prayer for the dead.
Do you pray for the dead? Why or why not?
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