I have a relative who has ordered me not to pray for her after she dies. She won’t need any prayers she assures me. She’s going to stroll straight into Heaven.
Now, lest you think this woman is a Protestant, especially one of the Once Saved, Always Saved persuasion, let me tell you that she is Catholic. A cradle Catholic, no less. She believes in Purgatory, all right, but it’s just not for her.
I told her I would not obey her wishes.
When she protested, I pointed out that if she did need prayer, she would be grateful to have it. If she didn’t need it, it would be applied to some other soul of the Church Suffering. Either way, she should be glad for it.
Apparently the way she’s figured it, she’s a nice person, and you don’t have to be perfect to go to Heaven. She’s right that you don’t have to be perfect to go to Heaven. The problem is that you have to be perfect to enter it.
We’re not perfect now, but we can still make it to Heaven, eventually, once we’ve been perfected. And that’s where Purgatory comes in.
It makes sense that since Heaven is absolutely perfect, you have to be perfect to be a part of it. What happens if you introduce an imperfection into a perfection? Doesn’t that taint the perfection? What would Heaven be if we took sin into it? It sure wouldn’t be Heaven any more.
This is verified by scripture. Speaking of Heaven, the text proclaims “There shall not enter into it anything defiled.” (Revelation 21:27) “Defiled” is sometimes translated as “impure.”
No wonder Jesus tells us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Yeah, but . . . perfect? I’m only human, after all. Isn’t this demanding the impossible?
I have another female relative who seemed to think God is being a bit unreasonable about all this. Why, she wondered, wouldn’t God either just overlook some of our faults, or, if that’s not possible, just sort of wipe out our imperfections without any effort on our part?
We often think of God as merciful but forget that God is also just. He simply can’t be “not just.” It wouldn’t be fair to treat a sinner who barely gets saved at the last possible nanosecond without any atonement at all the same as a person who has prayed and sacrificed all his life and then dies as a martyr under horrific tortures. Saying they are the same is a lie, and God is not a liar.
I thank God for Purgatory, for a method that can cleanse us of all imperfections.
But just think about it. Someday, if you make it to Heaven, there will be a perfect you!