A man who was reconciled to God on his death bed after living a miserable life in alcohol and infidelity, said, “I have no doubt that God has forgiven me but I look forward to the atonement for my sins”. In his remarks, he made a distinction between peace and pain. He is at peace because his sins are forgiven and having known that he has not atoned for the sins, he anticipated the pain of purgatory.
It is one thing to be forgiven, it is another to expiate for the sins. the former (forgiveness) removes the guilt of sin, while the later (expiation) obliterates the punishment due to sin.
Purgatory is a means of reaching excellence and achieving a perfection. It’s something like a dark room for a photographic film which is treated with burning an acid that the beauty of the picture might be revealed.
The judgment of God is final but still there is a merciful chance to be cleaned of the sin of those who died on the state of grace but have not atoned for their sins. For example, forgiven for having stolen but did not return the goods.
A provision is made for making up for our failings if we die in the state of grace.
In the book of Maccabees, (2Macc. 12:44-46) we read that it is pious to retort to praying for the dead that they may be released of their sins.
And what is Purgatory? It is that place in which the love of God tempers the Justice of God. And secondly, where the love of man tempers the injustice of man.
The necessity of purgatory is grounded upon the absolute purity of God. The book of Apocalypse tells us about the beauty of this great city. And the condition of entering it. Nothing thing defiled or unclean but only pure hearts.
Who of us will, at the moment of death, be pure enough and spotless enough to stand before the immaculate lamb of God. There could be such souls but they are glorious exceptions. How many millions there are with their souls stained with venial sins.
The day we were baptized, the Church laid upon us a white garment – saying – Receive this white garment which you shall carry without stain before the judgement seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may have the life everlasting. If you kept your garment unspotted and unsoiled by sin, then you can withstand God’s justice.
How many souls departed in this life, can boldly say that they left it without undue attachment to creatures, that they were never guilty of wasted talents, a slight stupidity, uncharitable deed, and neglect the holy inspiration or even an idle work for which everyone of us must render an account.
Think of our national heroes, whose names we venerate and whose deeds we emulate. All these souls who died with some love of God possessed in them, are beautiful souls, and if there is no purgatory then because of slight imperfections they must be rejected without pity by divine justice. That is why I say, purgatory is where the love of God tempers the justice of God, and gives time to retouch these souls with his cross, to restructure them with the chisel of purification that they might fit into the great spiritual edifice of Heaven.
He plunges them into purifying places where they might wash their stained baptismal robes, to enter into the spotless purity of Heaven, where Christ is King and Mary is Queen. God does not pardon without tears and there are no tears in Heaven.
Now we consider the other definition. Where the love of man may temper the injustice of man. I believe that most men and women are quite unconscious of the injustice and ingratitude and the thanklessness of their lives until they see the cold hands of death, laid upon someone they love.
It is then and only then they realize with regret the hurting poverty of their love.
One of the reasons for tears shed over graves is because of words left unsaid and deeds left undone to a beloved one before death came. The child never knew how much I loved her, she never knew what she meant to me. I never knew how dearie she was until she was gone. Such words are the poisoned arrows which death shook on our hearts from the doors of every sepulcher. And it is then we realize how different we should have acted if only the departed could come back but too late. Purgatory, therefore enables us to atone for our ingratitude, because our prayers, mortifications and sacrifices make it possible to bring joy and consolation to the one we loved. Love is stronger than death and so there should be love to those who have gone before us.
The Church shows us that not being able to show love to them in this world since they are no longer with us, we can still seek them out in the hands of divine justice and give them the assurance of our love. The soul that enters the dealt of penance to God may have it remitted by us who are left behind by meeting the coin of daily actions in the spiritual coin which produces redemption by praying for the poor souls in purgatory.
They suffer, Yes. But such suffering brings them close to divine love since it is a place of pain with love.
When that soul is completely purified, there is nothing left to be consumed, then it naturally become pure to go to the throne of judgement to be confirmed by God himself. There is no sense of pain when perfect love is eventually reached.