The lost souls that never heard the word Jesus…
What I find to be the most saddening belief differing from Catholic Doctrine in Christianity is purgatory. I won’t attempt to describe this issue any better than the Catechism:
…purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
My Non-Catholic Brothers and Sisters often tell me that unless a person fully accepts into their heart Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savoir they are going to hell. Ouch. Let me offer to you this scenario and you tell me what you think:
A little boy is born to the world in a small tribe deep within the rain forest. His people are a good people that farm the limited land and hunt animals. His parents are considered very wise in the village and are well respected by all. The little boy learns a great deal from his parents about the way for which he should live his life. Not only their teachings guide him though, when he does wrong, he feels that it is such. The little boy grows up working his family’s farm and becoming a man. When he hits the age at which his people marry, he finds a wife to share the rest of his life with. Much in his fathers footsteps the little boy becomes very wise and is known around the various tribes as a very good man. With his wife and children he carves out a section of the forest to which he farms and produces excess from. He very often gives the excess to the less fortunate in the village and when he does sell the excess it is a very fair price. Much in the way all people do, the little boy became an old man and died. The villages came from all around to weep this very good man’s death. It is a shame he is going to Hell huh?
Can we not all agree that this man lived a stand up life? Had he been a Christian he would have been a good one at that. So why then will this man be going to Hell. What if I was in America, accepted Jesus into my heart, but cheated on my spouse. Would I still go to Heaven over this man just because in my native tongue I heard the word “Jesus” uttered? Now follow me because I know you are thinking right now:
God is good. Not only is God good. God is perfect. Everything and anything God does is perfect. We can also deduct then that the image we were created in was that of God. We could all agree then that at our very core that God gave us we are good. The soul for which our body constrains is naturally drawn to good. C.S. Lewis says it in this way, “When we run for awhile and then stop, we thirst for water. How did we know to do such things?” How do we know in our hearts what is right and wrong. From where did we deduct such things? We know these things and yearn for them because God created us. At our very core we desire to be in perfect communion with our creator.
So now that we can all agree on the above lets take it one step further. God didn’t just create those people reading this website. God created all the people of this earth. So that same drive for perfection and good is engrained into souls of all humans. Well is purgatory just for those souls?
No! We will all most likely be purified by the fire. If God is perfect and heaven is the place at which we join Him, then heaven must be perfect. How can Nick as a lowly sinner enter those gates? To say that I die and go straight to heaven is pretty ballsy! That would be to insinuate that I have lived a perfect life and confessed all my sins. My Non-Catholic friends tell me that as long as I confess my sins that I will go to heaven. To that I say this, how do you know your sins? Have you ever thought about the repercussions of your actions and the effects on other people? Maybe an action you committed that you didn’t even think about was a sin. Maybe something you did had repercussions far outreaching from your own person. How can I confess to a sin I am not knowing of? That means then when I die that I must be purified (root word of purgatory is the Latin word purga; which means to cleanse or purify) before entering the heavenly perfection.
Often times movies and popular culture portray purgatory as a floating area where souls fly around :) The way I look at it is that we don’t know what it looks like or what it feels like. There is no way we could. Purgatory is the cleansing before entering the gates of heaven and we haven’t the foggiest clue what any of that looks like. Personally I think there isn’t anything to look at. We are attempting to mix our human side into the spiritual. The human is simply the vessel that carries our soul. I don’t think as humans we can fully grasp what this spirit filled dimension looks like or if it even has a sight-based view to it. Catholics’ call this a mystery. Purgatory is a mystery that our human minds cannot fully grasp. Out of Faith we accept this and move along, we are just humans!
In all good things let me give you some scripture to look at:
Hebrew 9:27 – “…it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment…”
Matthew 5:26 – Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you had paid the last penny.
Jesus, speaking of the unforgiving debtor, told us this man would be tortured until his debt was paid. Jesus said the Father would do the same to us.
Matthew 18:34,35 – Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.
Where can I pay this last debt if I know not the sin I committed against my brother?
Corinthians 3:10-15 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.
If there was ever a single scripture to speak of purgatory this is it. Taking into account that at the time of this scripture gold was the most sought after substance read on. St. Paul tells us that even if we build our lives of GOLD we will all have to go through a fire to test the quality of our work. The last part “the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” rings home that we all must go through a purification of fire. A Priest I knew once explained this in a metallurgist perspective, “Silver and Gold only become more pure by burning them. In much the same way if we live Christ-like lives, in purgatory our souls can only become more pure when tested against the fire.” Awesome.
Isaiah 6:5-7 – Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
Even Isaiah was cleansed of his sin from the burning of coal.