Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia. If the Mayans have taught us anything, it is that if you don't finish something, it's not the end of the world.
End of the world reflections force us to think about judgement and the resulting reward or punishment. Of course most of us fall short of perfection so the debate about purgatory arises.
Many Catholics struggle with the concept of purgatory and do not explain it well to fellow Christians. It becomes easier to understand if we accept the love of Jesus. On the cross Jesus said to Dismas, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
The love of Jesus forgave the mob putting him to death: “Father, forgive them.” Jesus died as the lamb offered to take away our sins. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
What is the burning truth about purgatory? There are references to fire in the bible; Sheol in the Old Testament and Hades in the New Testament. These are distinct from hell or Gehenna in that they are a temporary place.
“The kind of suffering associated with purgatory… is not suffering inflicted upon us from the outside as a punishment for sin, but the intrinsic pain that we all feel when we are asked to surrender our ego-centered self so that the God-centered loving self may take its place. It is part of the process by which we are called to die and rise with Christ” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chapter 29).
After our death we will be drawn into the consuming fire of God’s love which will purify us like fire purifies gold. We will finally be exposed to God’s loving judgement. I trust in the love Jesus illustrates in the parable of the banquet in Luke 14:23 where the host sends his servants into the highways and byways to compel all to come into the banquet so the table will be full.
Our excuses today for not joining in Christ’s banquet make about as much sense as the ones in Luke 14: “I have bought some land; I have a couple of oxen I want to try out; I just got married…
We have freedom to reject such love, but in that final meeting I am optimistic that the good life we tried to live will dispose us to accept fully what our Redeemer has done for us. That final meeting is not to be feared. Hopefully we have met Jesus long before that time and have stopped absenting ourselves from his invitation to the banquet he even now wants to share with us.
I have seven sure ways to get to heaven; seven essential rules that if followed will guarantee our eternal salvation. Number 1: Love God and love your neighbour. I forget the rest.
Of course this life is a struggle and we are often in the unsure darkness. How do we trust in God and walk in faith? If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark. John of the Cross.
In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God. John of the Cross.
(Thanks also to some thoughts from Curtis Martin’s The Burning Truth About Purgatory.)