Purgatory and Divine Mercy
The souls in Purgatory experience a joy second to that only of heaven. They are saved, and are certain one day of enjoying in heavenly rest and peace.
Yet they have gotten so near and yet so far. They now need our support, our prayerful solidarity.
It is as if they are spiritually paralysed. They cannot go another step unaided. Any progress towards heaven is with the aid of spiritual crutches of the saints in heaven and the prayers, sacrifices, penances and almsgiving of the Church on earth. They need to propped up, supported, lifted, like the paralysed man in the Gospel whose friends and faith moved Jesus ‘seeing their faith’ to heal and raise up the man so that he lifted up his own stretcher, folded it up and walked freely and unaided. Held up and brought to Christ by the others, whereas left to his own devices, he would remain far from Christ.
Blessed are the merciful, they shall be given mercy. Our prayers and sacrifices are in keeping with Divine Mercy because it is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead: it is a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.
Who is in Purgatory?
Those who need to make satisfaction for forgiven sins. It is one thing to break a window and say 'sorry' and be forgiven by the window owner, but it is another thing entirely and a demand of justice, to pay the bill, to restore what was lost, to make up and repair for the breakage.
To prove true sorrow and penitence. To do penance for those thoughts, words, actions and omissions we all regret. To atone so that we can be ‘at-one’.
In Purgatory, we are purged of all traces and effects of sin in our hearts. Our pride becomes humility, control becomes surrender, lust becomes love and purity of heart, anger changes to forgiveness, greed becomes contentment, gluttony becomes self-control, envy becomes gratitude, sloth - diligence and sorrow for lost opportunities. We mourn our sins, we squandered opportunities to be merciful in conversation, to be gentle in our dealings with others, especially the vulnerable, detachment from earthly possessions and possessiveness. We neglected our duty, we neglected to speak up or speak out, and we refused to act. We sinned knowingly and deliberately and sought God’s forgiveness, but the damage was done, chiefly to ourselves. We desired what was not ours to take, or to have – yet we took them anyway or coveted in our hearts but the opportunity never came to act out what we had consented in our hearts. We bore others ill will and desired revenge in our minds and hearts; we challenged authority and were disobedient to parents and disrespectful to siblings. We teased and bullied others at school or failed to stand up for them. We lied to parents and teachers, we stole from others. We wasted time, we drank to get drunk and spoke uncharitably or cruelly and vindictively, we caved into the popular thing that was immoral to save face, we indulged in pornography in books, movies and TV or on the internet, and acted out our fantasies because we saw the opposite sex as objects to be lusted after. We imagined ourselves married to someone else, we wanted to run from marital responsibilities, we fantasised about being unfaithful. We abused food and drink and comforted ourselves with gluttony. We refused to listen to the voice of our conscience and that of others. We criticised others to distract from our own faults and shortcomings, and we stubbornly refused to change, we criticised clergy and made fun of them in front of others or failed to defend them or the difficult teachings of the Church. We failed to speak up in the face of blasphemy or sacrilege. We lost our, rag our temper. We demanded our own way, and spoke without due consideration for the needs or feelings of others. We hurt people with our words and we never apologised. We avoided taxes, we failed to return borrowed items, and we failed to make restitution for stolen money or property. We failed to forgive our neighbour from the heart. We broke our word, we breached a confidence, we swore needlessly, we took the Lord’s name in vain, we deliberately gave bad example, and we were thoughtless and unappreciative towards parents. We argued and lied. We spoke behind our friends backs. We delighted in others’ embarrassment or misfortune. We neglected the poor. We were lazy in prayer.
This is why there is a Purgatory, if the Church didn’t teach of its existence we would want it to exist anyway. If you ever felt ashamed or embarrassed about your appearance or the state of your house when relatives arrive unexpectedly, or felt utterly unworthy in the presence of a saint, imagine being before the living God in your present state. You would beg Him to allow yourself to appear presentable, to be polished, cleaned, scrubbed, tidy, saying ‘I’m not ready!’. God in is mercy has allowed us to make ourselves ready, so that we truly appreciate the love He has for us in sending us His only Son to take away our sins. He loves us and wants us love as He loved.
To sum up, we have therefore failed to love God with our whole heart strength and mind. We have loved ourselves more than our neighbour. That is why there is a Purgatory, but it is avoidable if we truly love, and that is a true indulgence of God. Let us gain all the indulgences and merits we can in God’s sight – selflessly, without any motivation other than to truly love as we are loved by Him, with mercy.