At some point in our life, usually as we get on in years, we begin to ponder with a more serious approach, what happens when we die. Sure, we’ve got a pretty basic knowledge of the three outcomes, hell, purgatory or heaven, but there are still more questions than answers. Sri presents a very sobering quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope). Benedict says, that when we die, “our life-choice becomes definitive.” Immediately…at the instant of our passing, our personal judgement occurs. Our “life-choice” is determined on how well we loved God and our neighbor. Is our heart more loving or more hateful?
Our loving hearts can also help others by our prayer. Pope Benedict points out in this same encyclical, our “love can reach into the afterlife” as we pray for all those who have died. What a gift and responsibility we have been given to assist our loved ones and all those who have died. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “our prayer is capable not only of helping them [those who are in purgatory], but also of making their intercession for us effective”. Our prayer for them is a double blessing as they intercede to our Loving Father for us!
As Sri concludes this chapter, he leaves us with a reminder and a challenge. Our time on this earth is short, may we use that time to make something beautiful for God and the world.
This may be my favorite chapter yet – filled with clear, concise explanations and interpretations. It reads like an apologetic, informing us that no, we do not believe that God is wrathful and desires to punish us for our transgressions. Judgement is nothing more than a final affirmation of how we have opted to live our lives; for or against God. It is OUR decisions that condemn or recommend us. OUR actions. Free choice. Freely willed. How incredibly important it is to have a true understanding of what freedom really means. Freedom isn’t the right to do whatever you choose – freedom is the ability to choose God. Our free choices in this life determine where we will reside in the afterlife. Purgatory gives me (and I would think others, as well) great solace in the knowledge that it is a place for souls that need a bit more of a ‘tune-up’ – those that aren’t quite ready to behold the face of God. How much easier it must be to bear the cleansing ‘fire’ of purgatory, knowing, with all certainty, that YES, you will be in heaven. Just not quite yet. Do you not find beauty in the image of community Sri paints in this chapter, souls in this life and the next, helping one another achieve finally beatitude by interceding for each other and building up the body of Christ?
Questions to ponder –
- Is the belief in purgatory frightening or comforting? Why?
- How do I imagine Heaven?
- Why is the belief in the resurrection of our bodies important?
- Do you pray for those who have died? How does that prayer impact you?