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What Is Purgatory And Why Do People Go There?

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Purgatory is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows:


1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.


1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.


Things to Note:


1.        Jesus Himself said that only the pure can see God.  In Revelations, we are told that nothing impure or defiled will enter God’s Holy City. To be pure is to be without sin.  It is to be without guilt of even the smallest sins.  How many of us can claim to be without sin?  While it is true that Jesus has already paid for our transgressions, we must receive His mercy and forgiveness.  We receive it when we repent and confess our sins and ask humbly for God’s forgiveness.  Do we do that for all of our sins?  Do we repent of even our smallest sins? This confession is not a one-time act because we sin everyday.  We do not confess our sins generally as though saying, “I repent of all my sins now and of all the sins I’m going to commit later on.”  We should confess and repent of our sins each time we commit them, up to our very last breath.  Who then can be assured that at that final hour, he is going to repent of all his sins?


Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there),  and they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it so that they may enter.  There will in no way enter into it anything profane, or one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. – Revelations 21:25-27, WEB-BE


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8, WEB-BE


Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity… – Habakkuk 1:13, KJV


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we haven’t sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10, WEB-BE


2.        If it is then possible that we may not repent of ALL of our sins, even the smallest ones so we can be pure, should we say then that God would send us to HELL even for small or venial sins?  The Bible itself says that there is a sin that is “not leading to death”.  If theseunrepented sins therefore would not make us deserve HELL (which is the second death), what must God do to make us pure enough to deserve HEAVEN? The Bible clearly tells us that there are sins that can be forgiven in the age/ life to come.


If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I don’t say that he should make a request concerning this.  All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. – 1 John 5:16-17, WEB-BE


Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come. – Matthew 12:31-32, WEB-BE


The King James Version of the Bible reads:


And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. – Matthew 12-32, KJV


3.        Purgatory is both a manifestation of God’s mercy and God’s justice.  It is mercy because it is a channel of purification through which we can still be made pure to enter heaven even if in our life on earth we have not been able to repent of every venial (small) sin.  It is justice because it gives each man what is due, the punishment he deserves for offending God and neighbor which he has not properly repented for.


The Gospel tells us of paying for our transgressions in “prison” up to the “last penny”:  

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.  Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:25-26, WEB-BE


Write: I am Thrice Holy, and I detest the smallest sin. I cannot love a soul which is stained with sin; but when it repents, there is no limit to Mygenerosity toward it. My mercy embraces and justifies it. With My mercy, I pursue sinners along all their paths, and My Heart rejoices when they return to Me. I forget the bitterness with which they fed My Heart and rejoice at their return. – Jesus to St. Faustina (Diary of Divine Mercy, 1728).


4.        The Bible tells us that there is something that we can still do to help our brothers and sisters who have not yet entered God’s eternal joy.  We can pray for our departed loved ones that they may soon enter heaven.  (Note that this is not the same as contacting and invoking the spirits of the dead, which is forbidden.  Many evil spirits may only deceive us and pretend to be the spirits of our departed ones. We must pray for the dead and not make any occult activity to amuse ourselves out of curiosity and selfish intentions.)  We must raise our prayers and our love for those who have died, offering our sacrifices to God who hears us.


And when he had made a collection man by man to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice for sin, doing therein right well and honourably, in that he took thought for a resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it were superfluous and idle to pray for the dead.  (And if he did it looking to an honourable memorial of gratitude laid up for those who  die  in godliness, holy and godly was the thought.) Wherefore he made the atoning sacrifice for those who had died, that they might be released from their sin. – 2 Maccabees 12:43-45, WEB-BE

Culled from Catholic Answers.

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