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The Weight of Sin, and the Truth of Purgatory

  /   Wednesday November 16, 2016  

In my last article, I wrote about the need to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who are undergoing immense suffering. However, some people who may have read this don’t believe in Purgatory. If you don’t, I would invite you to take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:15 if you need a Scriptural reference. Catholics also have 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a reference, but Luther and others removed this from the Bible that Protestants now use.

Think about this … do you know yourself to be a sinner? Will you die still a sinner? Will you sin once you reach Heaven? Most of us will die a sinner, but we will no longer sin in Heaven. What changed, and how did it change? We know that Jesus paid the price for our redemption, but we know that, upon becoming a Christian, our faults do not immediately disappear. We have to struggle against them to grow in holiness. If the work isn’t finished here, wouldn’t God need to finish it before we could be in his presence? If God doesn’t, except in extraordinary cases, change us in an instant in this life, isn’t it reasonable to believe that any purification done would also entail some process?

Perhaps you may wonder why it matters to God. Many of us have heard people tell us not to worry about the law because it is love, which they rarely define, that matters. Are we Catholics so obsessed with sin that we imagine that God takes pleasure in handing out pain and punishment for every sin? No, we know that God takes great pleasure in showing his mercy, and Purgatory is not just a part of God’s justice, but also very much a part of his mercy.

It is important to understand in this that nothing about God is arbitrary. God created this world, and he is fit to rule it. He knows everything about his creation and wants what is best for us all. The laws of God are not some randomly decided precepts but are instead the key to our happiness and the happiness of others by living in the world as God created it to be lived in. They just seem like an imposition to us at times because we have a fallen nature. The lie that God wants to arbitrarily restrict us has worked for Satan for so long that he has never had to come up with another one.

Because of this, sin is not just the breaking of some arbitrary law. Sin is real, and it has real effects whether we can immediately perceive them or not. Some we can perceive. If I take a baseball bat and break someone’s window, that person has a broken window in need of repair. If I steal money from someone, that person is deprived of some of his or her money. Even if I am forgiven, there is still a broken window in need or repair and/or money that someone is missing. This will be true of any sin.

The stain left in our soul and the demands of justice can be taken care of in this life. They need to be. Our sins, being real, create a distance between us and God. God wants to completely remove them from us and let us be free of that distance so that we can be in his presence.  He is all good and all holy, and nothing impure can be in his presence.  If he left us with our impurities, there would forever be a distance between us and him.

As for the demands of justice, if God simply let them go, it would be for him to say that he shows mercy to the sinner but isn’t concerned about the victim. In fact, in the case of theft, restitution is required for forgiveness. Of course, the victim may excuse the sinner from restitution, which is essentially an indulgence. However, even one who forgives has the right to expect repayment of what is owed. There is still a temporal punishment merited with every venial sin.  If you don’t believe this, then do you believe that every criminal, after having sought God’s forgiveness, should be immediately released from prison?

Therefore, Purgatory is not some cruelty. There is no cruelty in God. It is the merciful means of completely freeing the sinner from all stain of the sins committed. God makes us clean and holy and able to forever live in the beatific vision. However, Purgatory is not our goal in this life. We need to do penance here and now, and God will not only cleanse us, but he will increase the grace in our soul. It is possible to die in such a state of union with God as to bypass Purgatory. However, as long as we die in the state of sanctifying grace, we are assured of our salvation, and God will make sure we are ready for Heaven.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Doctrine

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