Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Purgatory Might Be Like

Last night a group of us that meets at our church was discussing Purgatory. The Catholic Church teaches that this is a state of being purified after death for those who are already saved, before entering heaven. This got me thinking about what it might be like. People always talk about the pain and suffering that people experience in Purgatory. I think that pain is due to the fact that they are closer to God than they were here on earth. Our God is an all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). He purifies us with the fire of his love that burns away the impurities in our heart. 

Here on earth we can have the tendency to try and "hide" from God like Adam did in the garden. When impurities (fear, sinful thoughts and tendencies, wounds, shame, unforgiveness, and disturbing memories) come to the forefront of our mind and heart, we often have the natural inclination to stuff it down and escape. We drown out those thoughts and feelings by using our phones, turning on the television, sitting at the computer, busyness, etc.

I believe the pain of Purgatory is that we no longer have those idols to escape to. We are closer to God, his eyes are on us, our hearts are laid bare, we have nowhere to run, and we must receive his purifying love! The amount of time it takes for this to happen in the afterlife depends on how much we surrendered to this process and his love here on earth. He desires to perfect us in his love and transform us into his image!

One way I view Purgatory is based on an experience I had several years ago. I saw an image of the Lord's eyes.  They were periwinkle blue and see through like glass. They were beautiful beyond description and when he looked at me they seemed to pierce right through me and my heart was laid bare. I asked him how to back up my experience with scripture because the only scripture I knew of that described his eyes was from Revelation 1:14 - "His eyes were like blazing fire." He lovingly asked, "Can't you just take things at face value?" but then he answered my question and asked, "What is the hottest part of the flame?" I then realized that the hottest part of the flame was the bottom of the flame which is periwinkle blue. 

The next several weeks proved rather challenging and were bittersweet as memories from my past started coming to the surface and the Lord came into those memories with his purifying work. In much the same way as gold is purified in the fire, the dross in my heart came to the surface and needed to be skimmed off. This is not necessarily a fun process but necessary to become more like Jesus and become brighter so his glory can shine through us. 

I hope that I can get to the point where I am able to fully surrender to this process here on earth and some day people will be able to look in my eyes and see the love of Christ looking back at them!

Hebrews 4:12 - "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Few Random Thoughts

The Grace of the Resurrection

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter and had a blessed Lent! One year I was feeling sad at Easter because I felt like I could have done a better job taking advantage of the grace available during
Lent. The Lord encouraged me however and told me, "There is even more grace available with the Resurrection!" So, if you are one of those persons who could have taken advantage of more of grace during Lent, you have another chance during this Easter season!

Divine Mercy Sunday
I had an interesting thing happen this past Sunday. Right after Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, we stopped at our local grocery store to pick up some lunch food. I was at the deli counter and right in front of me a fight almost broke out. There was a man in line but he did not get a number. Another man came along, got a number and right after, his number was called. Well the guy that did not get a number was ticked because he was there first. He started calling the other man, who by the way was elderly, all kinds of names and told him he deserved a punch in the face and he even aggressively rubbed up against him. I was very impressed at how the elderly man handled himself. He just kind of smiled at the other man and didn't try defend himself or fight back. Meanwhile, I was right in back of them with tears welling up in my eyes. I had just left Mass, was very moved when I received Jesus in the Eucharist and then encountered this unsettling scene. That was just a small glimpse into the sins people commit everyday. Further proof that the mercy of God is a bottomless ocean since he sees everything and doesn't decide to annihilate us all!

Faith Alone
I have picked up on the fact that there seems to be an overwhelming presumption among many Protestants that Catholics think they are saved by their works. Some of these Protestants feel that it is their duty to clarify to Catholics that "It is by grace through faith alone that we are saved and is a free gift!", as they quote Ephesians 2:8.  First of all, I do not see the word "alone" when I read that passage. Secondly, I find this very ironic because often times these same Protestants believe that children are not "saved" and can not be baptized until they can vocally profess faith in Christ. If it is by grace and a free gift, then wouldn't it make sense to allow even a baby who can not do anything to have it too?! Instead that child has to do something, like say, walk down an aisle as they respond to an altar call to get it? Also, how do these same Protestants reconcile passages like James 2 that talks about faith without works is dead and Acts 16 that says your whole household will be saved? And for those of the "once saved, always saved" camp, how do they interpret Philippians 2 that says we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?