Question

Why do you pray for the dead?

Answer

The Bible clearly admonishes the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44-45):  “Then under the tunic of every one of the dead, they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids Jews to wear.  And it became obvious to all that this was why these men had fallen … And they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out … For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead …He made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”  St. Paul explains this in a similar way:  “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?”  (1 Cor 15:29).  This means prayer and fasting for the dead.  The word baptism often symbolically refers to penances (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50).  The apostle Paul also appears to be praying for a dead person, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy (1:16-18).

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