Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Prayers for the Dead: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 12:2-45 with poem by George Macdonald, I Need Thee

Daily Readings
Proverbs 27, Joshua 17, II Maccabees 12:2-45, Ephesians 6

Daily Text: II Maccabees 12:2-45

Prayers for the Dead
In I Corinthians 15:29 St. Paul mentions a practice of baptizing the dead, but beyond that he speaks of a judgement of the dead. This is also found in I Peter 4 and Revelation 20. Most Christians interpret this straightforwardly. If one lived according to the example of Jesus then eternal life is theirs and if not eternal damnation. But Paul’s reference to baptism makes an argument for the interpretation given by II Maccabees 12(cf. 319:267). That interpretation essentially says that a God-fearer who sins and dies in his sin may have that sin confessed by the community and still be judged free of sin for the resurrection and life with God. For that community prayers for the dead were effective. The Mormon’s embrace this to such an extent that their entire practice of compiling genealogies is bent towards baptizing the dead and bringing those dead relatives into the Mormon heaven. Paul also states that not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). However, the Protestant community with its greater emphasis on individual responsibility avoids prayers for the dead. If you are shriven even at the last minute, all well and good. However, when your time is up, it is too late for the community to say further prayers.

I Need Thee
George Macdonald


My Lord, I have no clothes to come to thee;
My shoes are pierced and broken with the road;
I am torn and weathered, wounded with the goad,
And soiled with tugging at my weary load:
The more I need thee! A very prodigal
I stagger into thy presence, Lord of me:
One look, my Christ, and at thy feet I fall!

Collect for the Day
Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still: though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin by which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year, or two; but wallowed in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by thyself that at my death thy Son
Shall shine—as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done,
I fear no more.
[489:124:July 2 John Donne,1573-1631]


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