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"awake, o sleeper, arise from the dead"
"Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." —Ephesians 5:14
What did Jesus do on the very first Holy Saturday? His body was in the tomb. However, in the spirit He may have gone "to preach to the spirits in prison" (1 Pt 3:19). "The reason the gospel was preached even to the dead was that, although condemned in the flesh in the eyes of men, they might live in the spirit in the eyes of God" (1 Pt 4:6). Thus, Jesus may have spent at least part of the first Holy Saturday preaching the gospel to the dead. That's one possible interpretation of these two unusual verses in First Peter.
Accordingly, we may be called today to pray for the physically dead. We should pray for the spirits being purified in preparation for heaven. We should follow the Spirit's lead in praying for the dead because this is an act of faith in Jesus' and our resurrection (see 2 Mc 12:44-45; 1 Cor 15:29).
Also, we should pray and fast today for the spiritually dead. "You were dead because of your sins and offenses, as you gave allegiance to the present age and to the prince of the air, that spirit who is even now at work among the rebellious. All of us were once of their company; we lived at the level of the flesh, following every whim and fancy, and so by nature deserved God's wrath like the rest. But God is rich in mercy" (Eph 2:1-4). We should pray for millions of unbelievers to accept the Lord's mercy, repent of sin, and give their lives to the Lord. This will make Easter that much more glorious as millions living and dead share in celebrating the risen Christ.
Prayer: Jesus, I feel as did Mary and Mary Magdalene on the day after You died. "As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for You, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?" (Ps 42:2-3)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 9, 2009
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