The Life of the World to Come: Purgatory

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The crowd mingles among the stackable chairs. A casual round of eavesdropping reveals the thoughts of those gathered. It seems Jim finally went blind in that darn right eye of his. The deceased rests, burnt to a crisp, in a box on a small, portable, altar. Holy Mother Church does allow for the cremation of the dead, but I cannot see an urn without recalling the darkly humorous verse of G.

Not that it mattered to this crowd what state the remains were in. Hardly a soul approached the altar for a silent vigil or a prayer. John, whose remains sat in the front of the room, and whose pictures were receiving the most attention, had been born in Chicago, in the wake of World War I. A son of Norway, he returned to his homeland to escape the Great Depression and as a teenager trafficked contraband British newspapers in defiance of Nazi censorship.

9 truths about purgatory

At the dawn of peace John crossed the ocean, thinking he may never see his family again. He found work in Minnesota, and found purpose in the preaching of Billy Graham. When he died a month ago, he was among the few who remained of the Greatest Generation. I am only here because I once fished the year-old John out of a toilet, which he had fallen into by mistake.

Several dozen impromptu eulogies followed, all of which offered the same sentiment. There were no tears because there was no cause for crying. John was with God and we are glad. But for all the happiness and smiles; there was something deeply troubling about the scene. On the one hand, a gathering of persons after a death ought to be sad.

Purgatory in the Old and New Testaments

On the other, it is difficult to justify tears for a soul gone to heaven, and pointless to shed tears for a soul gone the other way. Both heaven and hell are permanent, whereas even the deepest grief is transient, and with time it will pass. A permanent grief would be no grief at all. Grief is sorrow over deviations from the norm, not the norm itself.

The world falls for a moment out of order and we grieve. Our joy comes with the morning and the dawn of a new heaven and a new earth: a world set right. But here, even a moment of transient grief was not to be had. The ceremony lumbered on, past the point where my legs could remain awake. The Billy Graham apostles who populated this room had no concept of purgatory, the great gift of Our Lord to us.

I am not here going to spend much time arguing for the existence of purgatory.

We read in the Gospel of Mark that those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven in this life or the next. Given that no one in heaven needs forgiveness anymore, and that no one in hell will accept it, forgiveness of sins in the world to come must mean another option between heaven and hell: a way station, if you will, for those souls who need further purification. My humble thesis is that purgatory is a great gift to us.

Not only is it a blessing for those who pass away, for they may with time and suffering enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is also a gift for we who remain. If heaven and hell are the only possible destinations for the deceased, those who grieve are forced to presume that the deceased is in heaven, for the alternative is unacceptable.

Yet, absolute certainty of the attainment of heaven is as unjust to a soul as absolute certainty of the damnation of hell. We must not fall into the error of Fred Phelps. We must not replace the judgments of God with the judgments of man, for we are often mistaken.

Life After Death Experience – My Visit to Heaven, Hell & Purgatory

We have neither the power nor the wisdom to know one way or the other. Consider for a moment the bizarre behavior of Jesus during his time on earth. If he reserved his mirth, he certainly reserved his might. The God of the Gospels could have enjoyed Panera on demand in the desert. With a great fall and the arms of the angels he could have invented bungee-jumping. With a simple bend of his will, he could have reigned over the world with a terrifying grandeur and overwhelming power.

Yet, he did not. He came to the tomb of his friend and wept. He, who could command the dead to rise, watered the ground with his tears. If we are going to follow his example for celebration in the courtyard at Cana, then ought we not also follow his example for lamentation at the tomb of Lazarus? God hasn't caused or sent these sufferings to the believer. Indeed, if we believe the message of love of the cross, we know people in love seek to alleviate, not cause pain for their beloved.

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The same is true of God. In His love, He doesn't purposely hurt us or cause pain just to see if we can handle it. Instead, He permits sufferings in the life of the believer for a purpose. The purpose behind the suffering is to call us closer to Him.

purgatory | Definition & History |

He uses suffering for this purpose in different ways. When we experience illness or pain, it reminds us that our lives here on earth will pass away and to prepare for everlasting life. In the midst of disunity in our family, we unite this suffering with that of the suffering Christ on the cross, who had only a few faithful followers stand by Him while the rest of the crowd taunted Him. Troubles in employment call us to trust not in our own strength, but on that which comes from the Father for our daily needs, even if we need to humbly ask for help from others.

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This is where the truth of the statement made in faith from which "life is a purgatory" comes. The believer experiences and accepts their sufferings. They then use them to purify themselves of things that distract or fail to satisfy. With a great longing, they desire God's love most deeply and seek it through prayer and the good things of this life that remind us of His love. Father Dwight Longnecker, a blogger and priest in Greenville, S. Typically, someone needs summer school to repeat a subject that wasn't mastered the first time.

If everyone passed every subject, there would be no real need for summer school. The same is true with purgatory. God gives uniquely to each of us the full means here on Earth to become a saint.