Viewpoint: Rediscovering Purgatory

by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion

On November 2, the Church throughout the world celebrates the Commemoration of All Souls, a day which, though popular in days gone by, has been neglected in recent decades. This neglect may be a reaction to an overly negative view of purgatory and a severe notion of divine judgment.

The concept of purgatory is, however, essential to Catholic theology and practice. Granted, the concept of purgatory was often badly preached. Many people thought of purgatory, as Hungarian theologian Ladislaus Boros pointed out, as “a gigantic city of torment, a cosmic concentration camp, in which wailing, groaning, and moaning creatures are  punished by God.”

Perhaps the most profound truth embodied in the doctrine of purgatory is that we are not frozen, so to speak, in the moral and human condition that obtains at the moment of death. If we arrive at death’s door as imperfect and incomplete Christians, far from the holiness of the saints, we are not condemned forever to that state.

God still reaches out to us and calls us to himself, to a completion of our life-long journey into Christ. Purgatory should be seen as a process of dynamic transformation and sanctification, a completion of what began in us at baptism.

Anglican theologian John Macquarrie, expresses this well when he says that purgatory is one aspect of the process of sanctification whereby we are conformed to Christ. It is the completion of the process of putting on the mind and attitude of Christ.

In the twelfth century, William of Auvergne described purgatory as the fulfillment of our earthly penance. If penance is understood as a process of conversion and transformation, we will come to see purgatory not as a fearsome reality, but as the consummation of the whole movement of Christian life to salvation.

But what about the fire of purgatory?  The early fathers of the Church saw the fire of purgatory as a creative fire that cleansed and purified. The fire of purgatory is the living fire of the Holy Spirit, not the fire of destruction and desolation. St. Catherine of Genoa spoke of “the purgatory of God’s burning love.” We can link this with the mystical tradition which spoke of union with God as entry into a divine fire, into what St. John of the Cross called “the living flame of love.”

The pain of purgatory, then, is not the pain of divine punishment and wrath, but the pain of growth and transformation, the pain of breaking out of the old self into the new. Purgatorial suffering, according to John Macquarrie, comes from “the painful surrender of the ego-centered self” so that the God-centered self may emerge.

It is vital that prayer for the dead not be seen as bleak bargaining with a harsh God who casts imperfect souls into a ferocious, if temporary, pit. It must rather be conceived of and practiced as a warm and generous outpouring of love for those who have gone before us. It is an act of solidarity by which we accompany the dead on their pilgrimage to final perfection and happiness. It is a testament on our part to the worth and goodness of the departed, offered to a God who wills our salvation.

We would do well, then, to celebrate All Souls’ Day by making our own the kind of spirituality— by no means my invention—that I have set out here. Attending Mass on All Souls’ Day and remembering our own deceased relatives and friends—indeed all souls who ever lived—throughout the month of November are practices that need to be recovered and pastorally promoted.

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent’s parish, Salt Lake City.

By permission of The Intermountain Catholic, Salt Lake City.

40 comments

  1. “This neglect may be a reaction to an overly negative view of purgatory and a severe notion of divine judgment.”

    I’m a skeptic on this. Purgatory is a minor player, I think.

    Mainly, I think there is a cultural aversion to death and suffering. But my sense is that Catholics are prepared to reject this in a healthy spirituality and in parish celebrations that are thoughtfully prepared, and involve a sense of inclusion of those who have lost loved ones.

    The main danger is a liturgically-apathetic clergy unwilling to provide Mass at an hour when people would attend (a weeknight or a Saturday morning this year). Liturgical minimalism bites us in the butt somewhat harder than an all-loving God who wouldn’t condemn anybody.

    As for the appropriate place of divine judgment/wrath/old Catholic stuff, I would say we should renew these efforts by looking at the Scriptures of the funeral rites. What do they tell us about Christ? What do they tell us about human death? Both the loss of loved ones and our own mortality.

    One interesting starting point might be to look at the readings chosen by the grieving for funerals and vigils. That will give us a good place from which to guide our next steps.

    Oh, and making sure that ICEL doesn’t get its claws into the OCF.

  2. Perhaps people just don’t believe in purgatory. There’s no scriptural basis for it and the concept was used for such corrupt purposes in the past (indulgences). When I hear the word ‘purgatory’ I think of Luke 23:43.

  3. Two important concerns here: purgatory and praying for the dead. Tragically, neither is given much thought by many. Funeral Masses are called “celebrations of a person’s life” rather than an opportunity to pray for that person. Mass offered for someone’s soul? C’mon. The thought that Grandma might need prayers is offensive to some; Granny was perfect, whaddya mean she needs my prayers? Some really are poor souls.
    I see far fewer intention Masses these days. The liturgically correct (debatable) argue against mentioning the name of the deceased within the Eucharistic Prayer. I tend to mention the name, more of a reminder that we can and should pray for specific persons. Heck, we name the Pope and bishop, names of the dead are mentioned in funerla Masses, the names of the bride and groom at wedding Masses, etc. My point: it is good to remember Granny specifically at Mass– and often.
    All of this falls within consideration of what does it mean to be saved/redemmed. Are salvation and redemption themselves a concern for people? Do we really have any need to repent? Did we ever? Are we really “once saved, always saved”?

    1. @John Swencki – comment #3:
      I can’t say I’ve ever seen “celebration of a person’s life” in the Church. In the secular world, sure. But only sometimes. “Mass of the REsurrection” went out of vogue a few decades ago, at least in parishes with liturgists.

      People pray for the dead all the time. They don’t need a Mass, or a priest telling them what to do on that point.

      And let me also mention that my comment on purgatory was reflective not of my lack of acceptance of it, but more that many Catholics don’t have a problem with it, and I don’t see it as a major concern among most Catholics. Maybe some people think some people have a problem with it.

      I agree with KLS’s post. And I would add that keeping the focus on Christ is a great value. Purgatory isn’t important because it distinguishes us from non-Catholics. Or because it’s a nod to the best of Catholic tradition. The point is the mercy of Christ. And that we ask for Christ’s mercy. And I think a lot of Catholics get that. Otherwise, why would John 14:1-6 be one of the most popular funeral Gospels?

  4. Msgr Mannion’s reflection is very thoughtful and apt. I am one progressive Catholic who has finds the Church’s development of the doctrine of purgatory to make deep spiritual sense.

    Meanwhile, prayer for the dead is a work of mercy. Pray not only for the eternal rest of your deceased family, friends, benefactors, and ancestors but for all the forgotten souls. (Some day, almost all of us will be forgotten souls, some of us sooner than others.) It’s a lovely tapestry of intercession. If you are inclined to offer indulgenced prayers and acts for the dead, that’s also lovely (you do need to consciously intend to do that, fyi; we might consider it an form of mindfulness….).

    Don’t forget to pray every day for all who will die today, that they may be blessed with the graces of final repentance, final perseverance and a holy and happy death in the full embrace of God’s love. Every day, people awaken to their last morning. Some day, it will be us. We all need prayers. Habituate ourselves to awareness of this. It *greatly* amplifies our muscles of compassion (because it is a fundamental reminder that we all share equally in the inevitability of death), and awareness of our fundamental dependence on the infinite compassion of God.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #5:

      Esteemed friend KLS, “we” go back to RPInet, IIRC.
      Never have you posted a more beautiful expression of the grace of God, or for that matter, on any other subject, that has touched my heart and brought resonance and peace to it such as you’ve expressed in #5.
      Not just a half an hour ago W. and I learned that our cross-street neighbors of 20 years lost her mom, their grown kids’ gramma this afternoon after a short stint on hospice. We had 20 years of seeing her personally aid in all ways the kids who were adopted (and not of the same ethnicity, as if….) and weed their lawns and gardens, bring needed resources, you name it. She made peace with her passing weeks ago and goodbyes were complete. She resisted too much hospice meds toward the end, hoping that her grand daughter could make it up for her passing, but she told her daughter clearly, despite the meds, that she knew she had to let go. And she allowed God.
      We are a Church that prays for the dead, all the dead. If we forget that, we will then cease to be Church. Thank you, Karl.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #14:
        I am touched in turn. Thank you.

        I should confess that I wrestled over the issue in college over 30 years ago doing a difficult paper on the development of the doctrine of purgatory for my professor, Gerry Fogarty SJ. Diving into Scripture but both kinds of Migne (with the help of lexicons and commentaries, et cet.). That got me to the point where Purgatory was more plausible as a development than not, and that I had insufficient basis to reject it.

        But it was life and prayer got me the rest of the way. Maybe I learned this younger than man because (i) when I was young I had the gift of spending a lot of time with old people, and (ii) when I was in my 20s and 30s, I had the experience of being in a community where many people died too young from HIV-related complications. That’s some akin to the aging experience that being part of war or plague generation is. I can never share the general American cultural attitude that death is not omnipresent.

        I understand Crystal’s concerns. I generally had that approach to petitionary prayer: by pushing for my own agency, it seemed to indicate a lack of faith and hope in God’s, even to the point of superstition. But I don’t think God wants us to be over-linear in our logic in this. His generosity includes accepting prayer for any good end in any way we offer it.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #6:
      Rather, God offers us an opportunity for joining our agency to his. Purgatory is outside time and space, like heaven and hell. But God has a way of letting our agency in time and space to be joined to his.

      Apropos Todd’s citation, one of the most powerful statements of faith and hope in the Gospels is by that ever-busy Martha in John 11:22: “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

      I’m with Martha on this. Or, more truthfully, I try to be.

  5. As a psychologist, long ago I concluded that our transformation must continue after death. Surely we will experience God, ourselves, and others differently. Whether this transformation is in a “twinkle of an eye”, or takes” ten thousand years,” whether it is joyous or painful, or a mixture, that all seems premature speculation. I long ago entrusted my own transformation and that of others to God.

    As a sociologist, it seems to me that much of our notions of reward and punishment, heaven, hell and purgatory are very influenced by our cultures. Research shows most Americans believe most other Americans, especially those who are like themselves, are going to heaven. Other cultures, and other times might not be inclined to be so generous.

    As regards “All Saints” and “All Souls” Days, these seem to me to be relics of the clerical and religious caste system that did not appreciate the universal call to holiness. If the Popes can canonize one another I see no reason why I cannot canonize my family and friends, too!!! If it were my choice, I would sing the Te Deum at the end of every funeral.

    My father outlived my mother by ten years. Before he died he told me that he had prayed to my mother every night since her death and was ready to join her. Dad had a very simple faith of love and respect for others and for the work that he did.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #7:
      But, Jack, All Saints Days and All Souls preceiselydo recognize the uuniversal call to holiness. Recalling the Saints, one remembers not only the ordained but also (and in the majority) men, women and children of every time and place. If they can be saints, so can we.
      But maybe some don’t learn to love perfectly during their life on earth, so they have to stay ‘after school’ a while…. saints ninetheless.
      CS Lewis once wrote the our souls demand purgatory; who would feel affirmed if, at death, God said to us, “Well, you’re a bit messy. Still in love with some sins, aren;t you. But, we’re merciful here. Come on in.” And we’d want to reply, “Yes, but please…. I’d like to clean up first.”

  6. I guess I’m in the minority – I don’t usually pray for the dead. The idea that my dead loved ones need my prayers to coerce God into doing his best for them just horrifies me. They’re with God now and I trust him with them.

  7. Fritz,

    Yes, that’s true. I am pretty mixed up about petitionary prayer. I do pray for people, that they’ll be safe or get well, etc., and I’m aware that it doesn’t really make sense – God should be taking care of everyone without my nagging.

    For me the difference between praying for living people and dead people is that here on earth lots of terrible things can and do happen to people and so I’m concerned about them and I discuss that with God. But I hope that once people are dead and with God, nothing bad can hurt them anymore, so I’m not worried about them.

  8. Maybe my impression of Purgatory is incorrect but I thought Purgatory was for the ‘temporal remission” of sin. In other words for there to be justice for those who were aggrieved by another persons sin, the one who committed sin, although having the sin forgiven by God and now in a state of grace, must go through purification to rectify the wrong/suffering done to another(s) because of that sin. In other words the sin is forgiven but the temporal earthly consequences of that sin must be resolved in order for there to be justice?
    If however, purgatory is required for spiritual “venial sins” rather than “temporal remission” then when a person dies in in a state of grace but with stain of venial sins then it seems that grace and Christ’s suffering is “insufficient” ?

    Secondly, this progressive has no problem praying for the dead. If we are to accept Maccabees and the deuterocanonical books as canon then praying for the dead is easier to understand (and that is where the narrative of Hanukkah is found).

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #15:

      Maccabees is often considered deuterocanonical by some Christians not necessarily because it endorses prayer for the dead. Rather, the books are not written in either Hebrew or Aramaic, but in hellenistic Greek. Maccabees is rather incongruent with the rest of the Old Testament in that it is written in the hellenistic novel genre. I think that Maccabees is similar to Acts so far as both are historical narratives, rather than narratives with sayings. In any event, friends don’t let friends read Maccabees in Greek. Frustration will likely occasion the use of certain monosyllabic words which are not permitted on PTB.

  9. The idea of purgatory – a place where people who have been forgiven by God but who aren’t perfect go to be punished/purified – is a medieval construct. The NT mentions no such place … instead, examples given seem to show dead people going immediately to one of two destinations, heaven or hell. But neither does the NT seem to say that people have to be perfect to go to heaven.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #16:
      Purgatory however it is described is part of Heaven not separate. No one goes to hell from purgatory. No one stays forever. Heaven’s fullness is the only outcome. Purgatory may well be our personal judgment or our soul without our resurrected body. The resurrection of the body occurs at the Last Judgement. In terms of eternity, for us it seems like it takes forever; for God it just is.

  10. His generosity includes accepting prayer for any good end in any way we offer.

    Yes, we are children, and God accepts us as the children we are. However, that does not mean that we get to impose our childlessness upon others as the way they should be.

    People pray for all sorts of things (that there be rain or not rain, that their country may win the war, or that their team may win the game). God understands and accepts. We should also understand and accept, but it does not mean that we should do likewise.

    I am very comfortable with the great liturgical petitions such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Litany for Peace. However, I have generally not been an enthusiastic participant in helping God to micromanage the world. I think it is fine that some people are enthusiastic participants; some of my family saints have certainly been and continue to be enthusiastic participants in such micromanagement.

    However, occasionally I make exceptions. I had been praying for a “new pope” for some time, and I am still praying for “new bishops” giving God and Francis time to bring them about.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #20:
      “We should also understand and accept, but it does not mean that we should do likewise.”

      Hence the need for detachment from micromanagement; hence, “thy will be done, not mine”. It doesn’t mean one should be scrupulous to avoid asking. Jesus didn’t say, “Come to me all you who are logical.” or “Ask and ye shall receive if you’ve properly thought out your petition to avoid any formula that might be seen as presuming on my Father’s will.”

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #21:

        Well our prayer life is greatly shaped by our personality and experiences.

        In Jesuit Novitiate, I found it impossible to do “Jesuit Meditation.” I just cannot imagine a Gospel scene and conversation with Jesus any more than I could write a novel or short story. It is probably far easier for people who think concretely.

        Also by Novitiate I was thoroughly immersed in the Divine Office as a way of life so that it is impossible to think of myself as praying alone even when I am in solitude or do not use the text. The whole communion of saints is always with me, and the line between prayer and non-prayer has somewhat vanished. The Divine Office also gave me a strong preference for praise and thanksgiving, and removed petition and repentance from a close relationship to the concrete.

        Also I am a cosmopolitan rather than a local. This categorization comes from some now ancient sociology that distinguished between professors who got their identity from their membership in the world wide research community versus those who got their identity from their service to their students and their institution. I have most of the time prayed with more than one parish, more than one diocese, more than one Rite, and more than one calendar.

        So there are many aspects of my life that have moved me away from concrete prayers of petition.

      2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #22:
        Thanks for the comment, Jack.

        I’ve also found myself at something of a distance from concrete prayers of petition. In my own faith story, I prayed to become Catholic as a lad of ten, and it happened in a fairly marvelous way.

        It struck me that prayer worked, but that I needed to take it seriously, and not for the little stuff that seemed to temporarily impact my life.

        As a result, my routine is to pray for other people, not for particular outcomes. And I usually ask people to pray for me more than I pray for myself.

  11. Had a bad sleep last night, troubled by what I perceived (perhaps quite incorrectly– please correct me) as a misunderstanding of the purpose and value of prayer, the Mass, prayer for the dead.
    If prayer is basically an interaction/dialogue between a human person and God (or Mary, the Saints, etc) and if prayer is sometimes meant to change anything, it is meant to change US, not God. By interacting with God through prayer we allow Him to influence us, ‘rub off’ on us, much like an interaction/relationship with a human person. Prayer helps change our mind, not God’s. In somewhat that sense, we pray for each other, that we may ‘think like God’, love like God. Our prayer for the dead helps them think and love PERFECTLY like God if they didn’t achieve that in life.
    The Mass makes Jesus’ saving action concretely present for us, it enables us to personally acknowledge and accept that saving action for ourselves as individuals and as a community. The liturgy isn’t just a remembering, it’s a making present and being present to. To renew our Covenant with God in the Body and Blood of Jesus is a significant act; it has effect, an effect applicabe –or, offered– to ourselves and to our beloved dead.
    Prayer isn’t “psyching one’s self out” and the Mass isn’t just a pious ritual or just a religious expression of an inner conviction. Both are so much more, both are so much more affective and effective. Are we losing our awareness of this?

  12. Great comments! I like all of them, like many “facets of a diamond” but rather many facets of prayer.

    Thank you John Swencki. I like your comment that prayer allows God to “rub off on us”, reminds me of Francis’ comment of “smelling like sheep” but in reverse, allows us sheep to smell like the Shepherd!

    I think that when we pray not only does God ‘rub off on us” but our intercessory prayers to God are distributed as He sees fit, first for our petition then to those causes that we do not know. We should have no problem praying and should not worry if it is too much, not enough, for the right cause, etc. God knows best and He searches and plumbs the depths of our heart and soul and distributes as needed all the while rubbing off on us.
    I think some prayers are iffy like praying for outcomes. I rather pray for strength to accept the outcome or strength and guidance to change the outcome. Praying for outcomes didn’t work for Jesus ( praying in Gethsemane that the cup may pass Him by) and it won’t work for us (I agree with Crystal). And when it does happen then that is in my definition what a miracle is.

    And I agree (whoa) with Fr. Allan that Purgatory may indeed allow personal judgments on our souls but I hope (and pray) he is wrong because I think we can be harder on ourselves than our loving God.

  13. I do use the Ignatian imaginative kind of prayer – the colloquy. It’s the only kind that seems to work for me.

    The idea that prayer only changes us but not God too, the idea that God is impassible, destroys the possibility of personal relationship between us and God … relationship means both who are in it are affected by the other.

    I think the most important thing about prayer is to be honest. I like what Eugene McCarraher once said about Herbert McCabe and prayer …

    “McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want—a good grade, money for the mortgage, Grandmom getting better, not drowning. You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want?”

    1. @crystal watson – comment #26:

      “McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want… You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want?”

      Love this — thank you for sharing.

      It pretty much sums up my prayer life. It also reminds me of what Pope Francis said about prayer: “The Lord looks at us. He looks at us first… I feel great comfort when I think of the Lord looking at me. We think we have to pray and talk, talk, talk…. No! Let the Lord look at you. When he looks at us, he gives us strength and helps us to bear witness to him…”

      These words spoke to me, for sometimes, oftentimes, when praying — for the dead, for the living, for all kinds of things — words (as the song goes) don’t come easy.

      More than that, some things, some struggles, some sorrows are just too personal that there really are no words. And it also gives me great comfort and peace that God understands everything.

  14. I suspect that the rejection of Purgatory is a consequence of the contemporary notion that we don’t sin, we make mistakes.

    I don’t know about you all, but if I died this minute I would bring a lot of moral — no, make that immoral — baggage with me that doesn’t belong in Heaven. That — no, make that I — would need purifying.

  15. “In other words for there to be justice for those who were aggrieved by another persons sin, the one who committed sin, although having the sin forgiven by God and now in a state of grace, must go through purification to rectify the wrong/suffering done to another(s) because of that sin. ”

    Dale —

    This seems to assume that justice is always a matter of punishment of some sort. But justice is mainly a matter of setting things right (which is usually a painful process for the guilty parties). Purification of a sinner’s soul, on the other hand, is mainly a matter of spiritual change for the good, not physical pain. It seems to me that Purgatory is about spiritual change. But, who knows, maybe some of us will need some extra pain to make us finally see that *we need* to change. Again, who knows. Whatever happens, I’m sure there’ll be some surprises.

  16. When considering purgatory as a place or state, we should perhaps keep in mind that there is no such thing as time (chronos) in eternity. Our creed calls forth a belief in the resurrection of the body–as opposed to the immortality of the soul–and we know that the bodies (remains) of our loved ones have not yet been raised from their tombs. I rather think purgatory is simply the way the church has come to speak of those awaiting the fullness of salvation on the last day. So we pray that the mercy of God will endure until the end of the age and that our loved ones will be among those called forth from the grave to be given a glorified body in which they can see Christ face to face. Our problem is really in dealing with the belief of the Greeks that the soul is immortal. So what happens to the souls of the just until the last day? We have formulated many prayers to express our confidence that they are safe with God or resting in the hands of God in his heavenly kingdom. We quote St. Paul as regards the wondrous things God has prepared for those who love him. But the truth is that the only one who has risen from the dead, spoke only of the hope of our resurrection on the last day. Its complex, not simple. Human persons, however, clearly require both a body and a soul.

  17. When I think of Purgatory, I think of the book The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom — – although I would rename it the The Five People You Meet in Purgatory. I find it great spiritual reading for the month of November!

  18. About the resurrection of the body and us not being in heaven until judgement day … that’s just Aquinas’ Aristotelian theory. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that day in paradise, and Paul said that when we leave our bodies we are then with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8).

    Keith Ward wrote about this subject in a lecture on JPII’s Veritatis Splendor …. http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/john-paul-ii-as-philosopher

  19. Karl Liam Saur : Pray not only for the eternal rest of your deceased family, friends, benefactors, and ancestors but for all the forgotten souls. (Some day, almost all of us will be forgotten souls, some of us sooner than others.) .

    At Mass last All Souls Day, our pastor reminded us that there are no forgotten souls. The commemoration of the dead at every Holy Mass ever celebrated sees to that.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #36:
        I tend to agree with you but it can be taken rather more literally, for example in bidding prayers mentioning the dead by name followed by “And for those who have no-one to pray for them”

  20. Since each life can be measured by its relative openness to God’s love and grace, why don’t we just merge our commemorations of All Saints / Souls, or Church Triumphant / Suffering if you wish, into one celebration of “the life of the world to come?” I see nothing gained by keeping them separate except a class system worthy perhaps of Dante but not of us.

    And while we’re at it, fix any magisterial theology that would not allow the merger. So one group is supposed to pray for us and we are supposed to pray for the other? After the universal call to holiness, it’s not so easy to assign someone as it were.

    No, I don’t believe in free passes. When the time comes for me to celebrate the end of earthly life, I will include this stanza in my own highly inclusive version of In Paradisum:

    Come loosen all my earthly bonds, my urges and desires.
    Prepare me for your needle’s eye and pass me through your fires.

  21. Some have criticised purgatory on the grounds that it appears to limit God’s infinite capacity for mercy and forgiveness. In the same way that the Church decided to dispense with the concept of Limbo, it is presumably possible for it to do the same with the concept of Purgatory.

    I am struck by the convergence between this thread and the one about David Frost.

    Finally, and I cannot remember the source, there is the story of the rustic who, when asked how he prayed, said something like “I looks at ‘im, and ‘e looks at me”.

  22. God’s mercy and forgiveness is infinite. But how great is His capacity for respecting human freedom? Will He compel those who utterly and freely reject Him to embrace His divine life nonetheless? At the point of death, will God ignore every rejection a person has freely made and throw him headlong into the Banquet? In the Gospels, Jesus says the possibility of loss is something with which we must all reckon.
    Is it holiness or “OK-and-So-So” to which we are called? Just how much of our imperfections (imperfections that are chosen and freely held) will we be allowed to bring with us into heaven? Or do we hope God will say, “Like it or not, , those sins you loved so much and have clung so strongly to. POOF! I’ve snatched them away from you.” Then I guess it will turn out we’ve just been puppets all along.
    God’s mercy and forgiveness…. and our own freedom….. how are they reconcilable? The answer may lay in purgatory.

  23. In my earlier post I did not intend to convey that in order to live with God eternally that we must wait until the Day of the Lord. Everlasting life belongs to God and his gift to us. How we experience that life after death is surely a mystery. God, after all, lives outside time and space. I’m reminded of those concluding scenes from “2001-A Space Odyssey” in which the main character plummets through the dark abyss only to find himself born again on the “other side”. Life after death and where or how it takes place is certainly a subject of intense fascination. Come, Lord Jesus.

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