Does Purgatory Make Sense?

I was flipping through the pages of my Catholic's Women's Devotional Bible, when I found this little gem by Louise Perrotta:

Purgatory makes sense.

Certainly the people of the Old Testament, who never used the word itself, felt the need for the process it refers to.  They believed that because of the great divide between God's holiness and human sinfulness, no one could see God and live.

"We shall surely die, for we have seen God," ssaid Samson's father after realizing the identity of the heavenly messenger who had announced his son's birth.  "Woe is me! I am lost," Isaiah cried out when he had a vision of God enthroned.  "I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5).  At Mount Sinai the Israelites were so over come simply by hearing god that they begged Moses to be their go-between (see Deuteronomy 5.25).

With the incarnation, God became approachable in a way these people never could have imagined.  But their basic instincts were right.  They knew themselves unfit for close dealings with God.

God invites us to a relationship of union with him.  It is a "like Father, like child" calling:  "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5.48).  Like a vine being pruned, like gold being refined, we become purified so that we resemble Jesus more and more.  If we cooperate with grace, the process is completed in this life.  If not, there is purgatory.

Though we speak of being "in" it, purgatory is not so much a place as a purifying process.  This process is symbolized in Scripture as a cleansing fire (1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Peter 1:7), but it is a purification altogether different from the punishment of the damned.  Souls in purgatory have the joy of knowing they will see god.

Purgatory not only makes sense, by giving us a chance to complete what we began on earth, it also reveals God's mercy.




Leave a comment