Thursday, June 7, 2012

Whats this nonsence about Purgatory?

Most non-Catholics really don't get the concept of purgatory... In fact, most Catholics don't either, so they take an idea that was given to them in CCD when they were a kid, and incorporated the confusion from non-Catholics, and put together is a lot of extra "religious" stuff that doesn't make sense - so today's blog will be a clarification and attempt to not only help you the reader understand, but more importantly, be able to teach others.

First, I'll provide the practical teaching, then I'll address the "fight" against this concept, then finally I'll add some scriptural references.

Practical teaching - As a human creation, we desire sinful things.  Sinful things are outside of God - and yet we yearn for things outside of God.  God's Ideal soul is one that desires nothing but him and a relationship with him.  Even when we KNOW something is sinful, we still tend to be drawn to it.  So the soul of a human has desires outside of God.  Secondly - Everything in heaven is perfect.  It's perfect worship, it's perfect peace.  It's perfect love and joy.  There is no desire for sinful things.  So to bring these two things together....

Imperfect person on earth------->  Death------->  Perfectly clean souls desiring nothing but the Lord

Ok - so how do our souls transition from imperfect to perfect?  How do those sinful desires be cleansed?  We're on earth, and are shown great and holy things, but yet our souls still desire sinful things...  So what changes our soul in heaven?

Purgatory is nothing more than this...  It's a cleansing process that purges us of our sin so we no longer desire that, but only the Lord.  That's it. 

It's not a waiting room - we don't know if we're there for several years, or just a second or two.  Heaven is not regulated by time or space.  There will be no "fire" as fire is physical, and our souls are not physical.  Eternity with the Lord is purely emotional which is the internal reaction of our souls. Could there be a sensation like fire?  In the old days, the only thing they knew of that would bring something to it's original and pure state, was fire - so that's why they used fire to explain the sensations of purgatory. 

Ok - so further explaining the concept of - "can someone go straight to heaven" - Yes... I believe it's possible but highly unlikely that their soul wouldn't need some kind of cleansing...  I believe there are some people like St. Theresa of Avila - one of the great mystics of the church may have come very close to cleansing herself on earth of worldly sin.  The concept of "offering it up" is purely about removing sinful desires and yearnings from within, and replacing it with a desire for the Lord.  St. Francis would throw himself into rose bushes after a sinful act so he would hopefully remove those sinful desires.  This is certainly not a recommendation for ANYONE, and I don't necessarily think that type of "purging" is even a moral or ethical act as our bodies are temples to be treated as sacred vessels of the Lord - but the concept has good intention.  I think with time, the more we turn away from sinful things, and turn to God our Father, his Son and the Holy Spirit, we will slowly be perfecting our souls to want nothing but him.  In the end, that is what it's all about!  It's not about merit - it's not about "earning our way" which we're often challenged of - It's about perfecting our souls to want nothing but the Lord.  Yes "we all fall short in the glory of God" Romans 3:23 - but that shouldn't be an excuse for stop trying...

So what is the fight against this?  Well, one is that we're just Catholic, and others are not - so they argue with things they are not taught in their own churches.  Secondly, you won't find the word purgatory in scripture - so for "bible only" churches, it doesn't, and couldn't exist.  You also won't find the word "Trinity" in the bible...  but taking the scriptures such as Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"  we've formed the theology that there are 3 persons in 1 God, and then we named this concept the "Trinity".  You will not find the word trinity, but the concept.  Even then, you won't find the theology in scripture that says there is 1 God, and 3 persons within in God, and yet all Christians believe this.  I am unsure why the concept of Purgatory is so challenged as a non-biblical stance when the Trinity could be portrayed in the same light.  Purgatory may not be completely outlined in scripture, but because of what we have, we've simply put a name to it.  Read the below scriptures and see how you can make the connections that theologians did hundreds of years.  Many early writings of this idea were happening as early as the 100's  Here's a great link with some ideas of early saints, Martyrs, and church fathers that express this idea:
Purgatory is a theological necessity to explain how we as humans with sinful desires, are cleansed of those sinful desires so we can participate as a part of perfect creations with desires completely focused on the Lord. It's about purification and a way we can be more perfectly connected with our Lord in eternity. 

I found a great website with some scriptures that communicate a need for repentance, and change in order to be with Christ in the afterlife. 

Matt. 5:26,18:34; Luke 12:58-59 – Jesus teaches us, “Come to terms with your opponent or you will be handed over to the judge and thrown into prison. You will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” The word “opponent” (antidiko) is likely a reference to the devil (see the same word for devil in 1 Pet. 5:8) who is an accuser against man (c.f. Job 1.6-12; Zech. 3.1; Rev. 12.10), and God is the judge. If we have not adequately dealt with satan and sin in this life, we will be held in a temporary state called a prison, and we won’t get out until we have satisfied our entire debt to God. This “prison” is purgatory where we will not get out until the last penny is paid.
Matt. 5:48 - Jesus says, "be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." We are only made perfect through purification, and in Catholic teaching, this purification, if not completed on earth, is continued in a transitional state we call purgatory.
Matt. 12:32 – Jesus says, “And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next.” Jesus thus clearly provides that there is forgiveness after death. The phrase “in the next” (from the Greek “en to mellonti”) generally refers to the afterlife (see, for example, Mark 10.30; Luke 18.30; 20.34-35; Eph. 1.21 for similar language). Forgiveness is not necessary in heaven, and there is no forgiveness in hell. This proves that there is another state after death, and the Church for 2,000 years has called this state purgatory.
Luke 12:47-48 - when the Master comes (at the end of time), some will receive light or heavy beatings but will live. This state is not heaven or hell, because in heaven there are no beatings, and in hell we will no longer live with the Master.
Luke 16:19-31 - in this story, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. But there is no suffering in heaven or compassion in hell because compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are deprived from God's graces for all eternity. So where is the rich man? He is in purgatory.
1 Cor. 15:29-30 - Paul mentions people being baptized on behalf of the dead, in the context of atoning for their sins (people are baptized on the dead’s behalf so the dead can be raised). These people cannot be in heaven because they are still with sin, but they also cannot be in hell because their sins can no longer be atoned for. They are in purgatory. These verses directly correspond to 2 Macc. 12:44-45 which also shows specific prayers for the dead, so that they may be forgiven of their sin.
Phil. 2:10 - every knee bends to Jesus, in heaven, on earth, and "under the earth" which is the realm of the righteous dead, or purgatory.
2 Tim. 1:16-18 - Onesiphorus is dead but Paul asks for mercy on him “on that day.” Paul’s use of “that day” demonstrates its eschatological usage (see, for example, Rom. 2.5,16; 1 Cor. 1.8; 3.13; 5.5; 2 Cor. 1.14; Phil. 1.6,10; 2.16; 1 Thess. 5.2,4,5,8; 2 Thess. 2.2,3; 2 Tim. 4.8). Of course, there is no need for mercy in heaven, and there is no mercy given in hell. Where is Onesiphorus? He is in purgatory.
Heb. 12:14 - without holiness no one will see the Lord. We need final sanctification to attain true holiness before God, and this process occurs during our lives and, if not completed during our lives, in the transitional state of purgatory.
Heb. 12:23 - the spirits of just men who died in godliness are "made" perfect. They do not necessarily arrive perfect. They are made perfect after their death. But those in heaven are already perfect, and those in hell can no longer be made perfect. These spirits are in purgatory.
1 Peter 3:19; 4:6 - Jesus preached to the spirits in the "prison." These are the righteous souls being purified for the beatific vision.
Rev. 21:4 - God shall wipe away their tears, and there will be no mourning or pain, but only after the coming of the new heaven and the passing away of the current heaven and earth. Note the elimination of tears and pain only occurs at the end of time. But there is no morning or pain in heaven, and God will not wipe away their tears in hell. These are the souls experiencing purgatory.
Rev. 21:27 - nothing unclean shall enter heaven. The word “unclean” comes from the Greek word “koinon” which refers to a spiritual corruption. Even the propensity to sin is spiritually corrupt, or considered unclean, and must be purified before entering heaven. It is amazing how many Protestants do not want to believe in purgatory. Purgatory exists because of the mercy of God. If there were no purgatory, this would also likely mean no salvation for most people. God is merciful indeed.
Luke 23:43 – many Protestants argue that, because Jesus sent the good thief right to heaven, there can be no purgatory. There are several rebuttals. First, when Jesus uses the word "paradise,” He did not mean heaven. Paradise, from the Hebrew "sheol," meant the realm of the righteous dead. This was the place of the dead who were destined for heaven, but who were captive until the Lord's resurrection. Second, since there was no punctuation in the original manuscript, Jesus’ statement “I say to you today you will be with me in paradise” does not mean there was a comma after the first word “you.” This means Jesus could have said, “I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise” (meaning, Jesus could have emphasized with exclamation his statement was “today” or “now,” and that some time in the future the good thief would go to heaven). Third, even if the thief went straight to heaven, this does not prove there is no purgatory (those who are fully sanctified in this life – perhaps by a bloody and repentant death – could be ready for admission in to heaven).
Gen. 50:10; Num. 20:29; Deut. 34:8 - here are some examples of ritual prayer and penitent mourning for the dead for specific periods of time. The Jewish understanding of these practices was that the prayers freed the souls from their painful state of purification, and expedited their journey to God.
Baruch 3:4 - Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. Prayers for the dead are unnecessary in heaven and unnecessary in hell. These dead are in purgatory.
Zech. 9:11 - God, through the blood of His covenant, will set those free from the waterless pit, a spiritual abode of suffering which the Church calls purgatory.
2 Macc. 12:43-45 - the prayers for the dead help free them from sin and help them to the reward of heaven. Those in heaven have no sin, and those in hell can no longer be freed from sin. They are in purgatory. Luther was particularly troubled with these verses because he rejected the age-old teaching of purgatory. As a result, he removed Maccabees from the canon of the Bible.

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