A thought for today, 2 November:
ALL SOULS DAY
The issue of “Purgatory” is a contentious one in some quarters but it is well understood in the Catholic Church. It ought not be controversial at all having recourse to logical reasoning but the antagonists of the idea hold that it is a spiritualmatter that may not necessarily be subjected to the test of reason. They would rather look upon the scriptures for reliable indications in such spiritual claims.
It is easy, using logical reasoning, to infer that since punishments for offences are according and proportionate to the type and magnitude of the offence, and even to the disposition and attitude of the offender following the incident, punishments should necessarily differ in type and magnitude. A petty pick-pocket cannot be sentenced to death or life imprisonment along with an armed robber who robs and kills his victim in the process. There are criminal offences and there are civil offences and the different categories attract different types of sanction proportionate to magnitude. A remorseful offender usually receives a lighter sentence than the unrepentant although he still has to serve a penalty. Will every imperfection, every little misdeed, be punished with eternal hell fire?
There lies the crux of the matter. Talking about heaven, the scripture says: “but nothing unclean will enter it” (Rev. 21:27). Who on earth qualifies on merit “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? (Rom. 3:23). The implication is that if anyone dies after committing any wrongdoing of whatever type or magnitude he must go to hell.
It is also easy, using the scriptures, to infer that a state like Purgatory exists after death. The bible informs that “all wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (1Jn 5:17), having earlier instructed thus: “If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one— to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that” (1Jn 5:16). No need to pray for those who die in mortal sin because there is no more hope of salvation for them; people of the first category can be saved.
The section of the bible that makes the concept of Purgatory much clearer is 1Corinthians 3: 12-15: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire”.
There are other places in the scriptures that also help us confidently draw inference in favour of the existence of Purgatory. A more intriguing thought is what the state of Purgatory would be like in relation to eternity, and to history (Time and Space). Is the soul in purgatory experiencing eternity or history?
The dead person has no body with which to live in Time and Space, but is spirit. This spirit is not yet qualified for eternal life and so cannot enter eternity. I feel that the soul in purgatory that is not equipped with body required for life in history is trapped in history – at least in time, perhaps in space too. This theory of a bodiless soul being trapped in history is my own conjecture and not authoritative. It is predicated upon the time tag placed on the concept of Purgatory by Scripture and Church Tradition – time for purgation to qualify for entry into eternity; time the soul that built on the foundation, “…which is Jesus Christ”, (1Cor. 3:11) but with material that could not survive the testing fire, requires to be saved “as through fire” (1Cor. 3:15); time which shall stop at the same time with Purgatory because, known as hades (which is a temporary place of suffering , a state in-between Heaven and Hell Fire or Gehenna), it shall be thrown along with death into the lake of fire, at the end of time, after the Last Judgment (cf. Rev. 20: 13-15).
I feel that part of the suffering of this soul may be as a result of the trapping, the imprisonment, occasioned by the inability of the bodiless soul to live normally in a realm that requires a body. The body is, therefore the adaptation required for the soul to experience life in Time and Space. He has lost this body in death but is not permitted to get to eternity where his nature belongs, where time does not exist. Other sufferings are now determined by what God considers commensurate, in his own circumstance, for him to be purged and purified. Thanks to God’s mercy, he can now enter into his blissful eternal home.
* Some important links on Purgatory:
1. Purgatory. Catholic Answers
2. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Purgatory – New Advent
3. Heaven, Hell and Purgatory – EWTN.com
4. The Burning Truth About Purgatory
5. Scientific Proof of Poor Souls in Purgatory in Rome
6. Part 1: Proof of Purgatory? Look No Further
7. Description of Purgatory – Medjugorye.com
8. Is Purgatory in the Bible? Tim Staples
9. The Doctrine of Purgatory – Catholic Culture.org
10. Proving Purgatory by Brother André Marie