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Posts Tagged ‘Purgatory’

Sadly…no.

At least not instantly.

But here is some of what Jesus does offer us by way of the Good News.

If you make a firm and fundamental decision to follow Jesus.

If you repent for your sins.

If you are truly sorry for your sins and make a firm commitment to try and not to do those sins again.

Then…Jesus will forgive your sins. All your sins. Right then and there.

Just like that. Just like love.

But…

But…

Just because Jesus saves us. Just because he covers up our own iniquities with his perfect righteousness. Just because he opens up the Gates of Heaven for us. Just because in a sense he makes us, the unloveable, suddenly lovable.

Doesn’t mean that Jesus also makes us Loving. At least not right away.

You see, that takes longer. And we all know it.

We get out of confession and we feel great. The slate has been wiped clean, our sins have been forgiven and sanctifying Grace has been restored in us and we are ready for bigger and brighter things. Then we go out to our car and try to get out of the parking lot when somebody cuts off of. Our initial instinct is to cuss them out and wonder why they are such a moron. But, because we just got out of confession, we have to tame and control our instinct, our habit. We have to overcome it.

You see, we spend a lifetime developing unloving habits, building up our unloving muscles so to speak. Just because Jesus forgives our sins instantly doesn’t mean he makes us super loving creatures instantaneously.

Lets puts it this way.

Lets imagine that getting fat was a sin. And lets say Jesus were to come down one day and forgive you for getting fat.

That would be awesome, except…that you would still be very much…fat. Jesus doesn’t change that part of it. At least not right away.

You see, after we accept Jesus’s forgiveness, his Salvation, his Grace, into our lives, then we have to follow Jesus. And because Jesus loves us first, because he reaches out to us, because he moves with Grace towards us, we are then Moved to love him back. And slowly, steadily, over time we start to develop new muscles, new habits.

Our unlove muscles go away and our love muscles build up.

This is why Catholics believe in purgatory.

Christ’s Salvation ‘gets’ us into Heaven, but it doesn’t make us good lovers, at least not right away. That takes time.

And as we become better lovers, our experience of the Communion that Heaven offers us will grow.

So, we don’t love Jesus in order to merit Salvation. (We can’t merit Salvation). Jesus offers us Salvation because of his own love, his own merits. After we accept Salvation, we are then so moved by our thankfulness and love for Jesus that we dedicate our lives to following him.

And one day, we will become so good at loving, that we will become very much like Christ himself.

We will be Saints and we will be enjoying the fullness of the Communion of Heaven.

So, if you haven’t accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, start with that. If you need to repent of your sins, do that. And if you’ve never really started the quite difficult work of following Jesus, the hard work of becoming a better Lover, get started today…get started Now.

It will be worth it.

Jesus is worth it.

Heaven is worth it.

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My father, John Kenney, died yesterday morning.  He knew it was coming, he was prepared, and he went peacefully.  What a great blessing for a good man.  You can read more about my father in the previous post, “My Dad Paints A Fence”.

So what is my Dad experiencing right now?  That is the real question.  Our Catholic tradition has an answer.  Not all the specifics mind you, but an answer.

The Catholic answer starts with an assumption.  That after death, there are only two options.  To be with God or to not be with God.   While on the physical world, God’s presence is mediated to us throughout the creation that surrounds us.  Thus, even if we ourselves were somehow separated from God here on earth, its impossible to be completely separate from God’s presence since that presence is mediated to us every second of every day by the people, creatures, and matter that surrounds us.

But once we leave the world of matter, that all changes.  Catholics believe that once we die, there is only God.  And if one is not with God, then one is alone. Utterly completely alone.  Catholics believe that sin separates us from God but that Jesus has come with Good News.  That God understands we can’t not sin.  That God gets that we can’t do this on our own.  And so Jesus sets up a new equation.  “Be in a relationship with me” Jesus tells us.  “Follow me” He says.  “You see, I’m human..and well I lived I had a real relationship with all sorts of people who didn’t love me perfectly; exhibit A is my old friend Peter”.  And the really great news is this.  Jesus tells us that when we inevitably fail to love him, fail to follow him and fall into sin.  He asks us not to be perfect.  He asks us to be repentant.  And so, when we break our relationship to Jesus and break our relationship to God through sin, Jesus says that all we have to do is be repentant to restore our relationship with Jesus, with God.

And if we die in a state of repentance, then upon our death, we will be with God.  There is no other option.

My Dad saw death coming, he prepared his soul, he was repentant unto death.  He is with God right now.  He is in Heaven.

So what about Purgatory?  Many talk about Purgatory as an inbetween state.  A state of waiting in between Heaven and Hell.  Is it? Is it really?

Again, I don’t really know but my favorite reflection on the topic comes from our own Pope Benedict XVI, when he wrote the book “Eschatology” as Joseph Ratzinger.

And so right now, I will, without any attribution, summary my understanding of Ratzinger’s reflection on the topic.  If I do a lousy job, its all on me, not our wonderful Pope.

If a person has made the fundamental choice to be with Jesus, to follow Jesus and if that person is repentant, then upon their death, they are with God.  There is no other option.  However, their experience of God may be different than another persons.  What do we mean?   Upon death, Jesus will be fully present to the Christian.  Jesus will be loving the person, will be loving John Kenney, with everything that Jesus has.  However, the real question is, will the Christian; will John Kenney, be ready, be capable, of fully loving God back.

You see, the Catholic church believes that all sins can be forgiven by Jesus.  That Jesus and his grace are fully enough to make up for our sins and to restore our relationship with God.  However, at the same time, the Catholic church believes that sin does real damage to our selves, and to our souls.  To take an extreme example, lets say that somebody murdered another.  And that after the murder they had true sorrow and contrition.  Once that person attended Confession and repented, Jesus would forgive their sin and as long as they did their penance, the person’s relationship with God would be restored.  But it doesn’t mean that the person has been healed of whatever was wrong with them that led to them murdering someone.  That desire for vengeance, or that hatred or that habit; that doesn’t get erased.  Jesus could forgive somebody for getting obese, but the forgiveness doesn’t make the person skinny.  Catholics recognize that sin does real damage to the person and that it erodes our ability to properly love.

And so the Catholic idea of purgatory is this.  That purgatory is an in between state in the following sense.  That sin has so damaged a particular person, that they need to be made possible or capable of really loving Jesus back.  Or put another way.  After death, there is only God or no God.  If you are with God, you have won the primary battle.  But now the question becomes what level of communion will you enjoy with God.  There are those among the Christian faithful whose lives were so exemplary that upon their deaths, they truly were capable of loving Jesus back.  And so upon their death and upon entering into the full presence of Jesus, these Christians that we call Saints, are able to experience full communion with Jesus.

But many people, possibly my father John, must first undergo a process of being made really capable of loving Jesus back.  And what is it precisely that might get my father John ready to love Jesus back?  Catholics believe it is nothing other than the presence of Jesus himself.  His own presence, perfect and glorious in its love, is the fire that purges away the rest of our impurities.  it is the very presence of Jesus that right now, is probably getting his son John Kenney ready to enter into full communion with him.

We pray for John while he waits in the presence of our lord while not yet enjoying the fullness of communion with our Lord.  And we ask that John can pray for us so that we may follow Jesus, repent, and follow the examples of the Saints so that we might be people capable of loving Christ back.  Amen.

P.S.  A note about how Saints were able to prepare themselves to be capable of loving Jesus back; while on earth.  The answer, they spent time in the presence of Jesus.  There really is not shortcut here.  You have to spend the time with Jesus, in order for Jesus to do an extreme makeover soul addition on you.  Jesus is the one who does it.  We cooperate but its really all Jesus.  And for the Saints, either through time spent with Jesus or an intensity of experience with Jesus, their selves have been made ready to love.  If that hasn’t happened for you on earth, then it has to happen for you in Heaven.  Or put another way, for those who know me.  Assume for a second that I am currently following Jesus and in a state of repentance and that I die five minutes from now.  Who would you say is more capable of loving Christ like he deserves?  Me or Mother Theresa?  Right, Jesus would in affect need to spend some time in the Gym with me to get me ready and prepared to love him as He deserves….time that Mother Theresa has already put in while on earth.

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