Sunday, April 28, 2002

I'm a big fan of the journal First Things, and in the most recent issue April 2002, there is an article by Jerry Walls entitled Purgatory for Everyone. It is simply a brilliant piece on, you guessed it, purgatory. There is one section in this article however that spoke to me more than any other, and it should be such a simple analogy to grasp, I do not know why more people have not caught on. Especially in evangelical circles, where those avid readers among them seem to like the writings of C.S. Lewis as much as us Catholics.

Appealing to God’s forgiveness does nothing to address the fact that many Christians are imperfect lovers of God (and others) at the time of their death. This is not to say that the experience of being forgiven does not change us. Indeed, gratitude for God’s free offer of forgiveness is a powerful incentive for the believer to love God in return. But forgiveness alone, especially on a legal model, does not change us in a subjective sense. Consider in this light the words of C. S. Lewis, an author whose views are usually endorsed enthusiastically by evangelical Protestants.

Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first”? “It may hurt, you know.”—“Even so, sir.”

Forgiveness alone does not eliminate unpleasant odors, and lack of condemnation does not clean up soiled clothes. Other remedies are necessary, and as Lewis suggests, they may involve pain.

Indeed. Like it or not, we all stink once we're through with this world. I know I'll need a bath. I wonder... do they have jacuzzi's in purgatory?

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