Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank God for Purgatory

During the Inquiry portion of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), you are encouraged to ask all of the questions that you may have regarding the Catholic faith. One day, I decided to ask my one of the catechist about purgatory.

He explained that in order to enter the Beatific Vision, you must be perfect (Matt 5:48) because anything that is unclean will not enter (Rev 21:27) heaven. While it is possible to attain perfection on Earth and after you die, enter directly into Heaven, most of us will not reach perfection. Because of that, in God's mercy, He has provided a place where we can be made perfect in order to enter heaven. It is here, where we will be transformed and changed, by removing our sinful nature and attachments, so that we can enter the Beatific Vision. That place is called purgatory.

Purgatory is a form of punishment, at least in the sense that you have to be cleansed before you can see God face to face. We live for the day that we can finally go home and enter into the Kingdom of God. After we die, we will want that even more so. Since we will have to wait before we can go inside heaven, that time of waiting is a form of punishment. When you were a child, and you spent all day playing outside in the mud, when it was time to come in, didn't you first have to hose off outside before muddying up your mother's house? (This is a similar analogy to the one that Steve Ray has done in the past. I can not claim credit for this one). How much more so do we need to change before we are considered perfect in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven - God's House?

Everyone that goes to purgatory, are heaven bound. In other words, there is no going to purgatory, and then going to hell. That is not what Catholics believe. We believe that purgatory is a place that you will be purified and prepared to enter into Heaven. It is the preparation that you must go through in order to make it to heaven, if you did not die perfectly.

Purgatory is not a "second chance". There is nothing that you can do after you die, that will change your destination - whether that is heaven or hell. The choice that you made here on Earth is what determines where you will spend your eternal life. Purgatory is not a place you go and have the opportunity to choose to be with God or live in eternal torment. (Can you imagine anyone, under those two options, actually choosing to live in torment?)

You are probably wondering if there is any evidence in scripture that discusses purgatory. Here are some:

[Courtesy of Scripture Catholic]
As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.[a]"(Luke 12:58-59)

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.(Matt. 12:32).

What did Jesus mean when he said that they will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come for sinning against the Holy Spirit? What are the two ages that He is talking about? Isn't He also implying that there are sins that will be forgivable in the age to come?

...preached to those in prison...(1 Peter 3:19; 4:6)

These are the souls being purified for heaven.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.(1 Cor. 3:10-15)

Also, the books of the Bible that were removed from most Protestant editions, clearly show that we are to pray for the dead:

And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. With godliness... Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. (2 Maccabees 12:43-45)

I hope that this helps to better clarify the Catholic teaching on Purgatory, at least on some level. If you would like to learn more, I would recommend the following sites:

Scripture Catholic :- Purgatory
Is Purgatory Found in the Bible
Arguing the Existence of Purgatory.
St. Michael's Media: Purgatory MP3
Bishop Fulton Sheen :- Purgatory MP3

God Bless.

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