§ 1030-1032 The Final Purification, or Purgatory
§ 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. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
§ 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin. From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.
The Jewish Virtual Library article on Paradise tells us, in its section on Gehinnom states: “According to Bet Shammai, those whose merits and sins are evenly balanced will be purified in the flames of Gehinnom [hell], and thus rendered fit to enter Gan Eden [paradise].”
Ancient Judaism understood that God allows no sin in heaven. “You who are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong …” Hab 1:13, so it understood the need for a place where sins can be purged from us. King David asked, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” Ps 51:7. The original Hebrew for “purge” here is tekhateni, from the root khet, sin. The Septuagint’s Greek is rhantieis. Both mean “purify,” from the Latin purgare.” St. Jerome focused on the hyssop, a natural moss that holds water well so it can be used for sprinkling, translated this word into Latin as asperges, sprinkle, depending more for the purifying sense on the next words, lavabis me, “wash me.”
- On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchers of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, begging that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” 2 Mac 12:39–45.
And He Shall Purify 2:33
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” 1 Cor 13:12. God’s national revelation to Moses reveals it only dimly, but Rabbi Yeshua, the light of the world Jn 8:12, illuminates our path to salvation.
”God is love” 1 Jn 4:8, 16. “God is a consuming fire” Heb 12:29. He is a consuming fire of love. Rabbi Yeshua told us, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” Mt 13:44. But it is very difficult to sell all that we have. “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” Mt 19:21–22. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Rom 3:23, but “nothing unclean” 2 Cor 6:17; Rev 21:27 shall enter heaven.
Rabbi Yeshua, during his great Sermon on the Mount, while teaching about heaven Mt 5:20 and hell 29–30, venial 19 and mortal sins 22, tells us, “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison [Greek: phulake]; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” Mt 5:25–26. Kefa made crystal clear that Rabbi Yeshua’s “prison” was no longer sheol, but a place of purgation. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison [Greek: phulake]” 1 Pet 3:18–19.
Rabbi Yeshua also declared, “Whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” Mt 12:32. Evidently some sins can be forgiven in the next life.
St. Paul, writing after the Final Sacrifice in the present tense, also declared that Rabbi Yeshua’s merciful particular judgment could send a soul to have his sins purged before entering heaven. “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” 1 Cor 3:11–15.
The Catechism here is concerned with explaining what the Church teaches. It does not address the question of how severe we can expect the pains of purgatory to be. St. Augustine, a Doctor of the Church, dismissed the blithe tone taken by fourth century Catholics toward purgatory. He wrote, in Explanations of the Psalms 37:3 (AD 392): “Because it is said that he shall be saved, little is thought of that fire. Yet plainly, though we be saved by fire, that fire will be more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life.”
Sola Scriptura believers sometimes say that there is no explicit mention of cleansing sin, but only of testing works, as if believers watch their works go through fire but they escape it. Sins are wicked works Mt 7:21–23; Jn 8:40; Gal 5:19–21. How can a work be cleansed apart from the man who performed it?
St. Paul says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” 1 Cor 3:15. That can only be a cleansing fire burning away his sins to purify his soul for heaven.
Separating works from the soul is a defense attorney pleading, “Yes, my client committed this terrifying murder, but he’s a good man. By all means put the murder in prison but let my client go free.”