Wednesday, June 10, 2009



“Grandma! Grandma! My friend Marcy’s grandfather just died—I mean, got killed—no, I mean he did it to himself! Grandma, what’s going to happen to him? I mean the forever part of his life?

“Jeffrey, I’m so sorry! I can imagine Marcy and her family are really upset. This is a terribly sad thing to happen to them and to their grandfather. Let’s have a really serious talk about that, shall we?”

“Yes, let’s. Can people decide they don’t want to live anymore and then just leave?”

“That is not something that God wants people to do. God gives each one of us life and we don’t own our life. So it isn’t ours to dispose of. God is the only one to decide when our life should be finished. Do you know what the 5th of the Ten Commandments is?”

“It’s ‘Don’t kill’. Does that include killing ourselves?”

“Yes, it does, Jeffrey. But sometimes a person isn’t thinking clearly or he is so disturbed or sick in his body or his mind that he doesn’t really know what he is doing.”

“Grandma, does someone who is confused like that go to Hell because he did what God didn’t want him to do? Could he ever get to Heaven?”

“The Catholic Church teaches that God is the only one to know someone’s heart and situation at the time he is dying. No one else can really know. If there are situations like I just told you where a person is really badly disturbed, God does not hold him totally responsible. God can provide some way that only He knows for him to repent and become holy enough to live with Him in heaven.”

“Does that mean that everyone will get to heaven anyway no matter what they do because they’re going to get a second chance?”

“No, that is not what it means. There are people who hate God and turn their backs on Him and fight against Him and don’t want anything to do with God or Jesus. They are already making their own decision to go to Hell. They don’t want to be where God is, and Hell is that kind of place. God is not sending them there.”

“Grandma, one of my friends at school said that Catholics believe there are three places to go after you die. Is that true?”

“The Church teaches what the Bible teaches: there are only two places, Heaven and Hell. Every person chooses for himself. God invites and welcomes everyone to come live with Him forever in Heaven. He doesn’t want anyone left out. After we decide to follow Jesus and to live like He teaches us, some people do it better than others. Those who do, may go directly to Heaven. Like those extraordinary people whom we honor and call saints. Or even people we know really well right now who are living to please Jesus.”

“How about those who have Jesus in their hearts but don’t do so good at living to please Jesus all the time?”

“God thought of everything! So He provided a temporary stopover or pause on the way to Heaven for them so they could get cleaned up before coming into the presence of The King of all the Universe where they will spend forever. Long, long ago the Church gave it an old-fashioned name that we are not so familiar with any more. They called it ‘Purgatory.’ It may not even be a place but a condition or state we go through.”

“We won’t have bodies anymore to clean up, so how does that work?”

“God hasn’t let us in on how it all works, so it is….”

“Got it! Another mystery!”

“For sure. You’re right that we will be in our spirits so it would be the ‘real person you are’ inside you right now, your soul, that goes through the clean up, or purifying, or becoming holy enough for heaven.”

“That’s a hard thing to get into my head, Grandma.”

“This is a really serious subject, but I think you are old enough to understand. How about I give you an illustration? When your Daddy or Mommy plan to go somewhere special in their car or van, where do they take it first?”

“To the automatic car wash.”

“Right. Let’s say my Chrysler is dirty, mud-splashed and grimy, which it usually is! I plan to drive to an important event to meet a special person, and I want it to be clean. Someone gave me a paid-in-full coupon, and I give it to the attendant at the car wash. What happens?”

“A couple of guys jump around your car to hand rub soap suds all over it. I really LOVE to go to the car wash!”

“One fellow motions me to drive slowly and to center the tires onto ramps that lead into a dark space ahead. I read the sign: ‘Put your car in neutral, roll up your windows, lower your antenna, and take your hands off the steering wheel.’ I do what it says, sit back and relax. Do I have to do anything?”

“Nope. You just let happen whatever is going to happen, Grandma. You are going to have a clean car.”

“I’m not scared how long I’m going to be in that place—I know it won’t go on forever—I see light at the other end of the building and I feel some kind of outside power pulling me through. Lights blink at different stages.”

“And there’s LOTS of noise! High pressure warm water squirts at your car from every direction. When I was little, I really got scared because monster-like, black, spongy tentacles slapped against Daddy’s car and seemed to be punishing the poor thing.”

“But that part doesn’t last long, does it? Then it gets quiet and clean, warm water squirts all over my car followed by bursts of hot air.”

“And out of the darkness we slowly roll, down the exit ramps, dripping clean. The bright sunshine always hurts my eyes.”

“My car is spotless, dirt free, and sparkling. I’m happy and ready to go to the wonderful event I’ve looked forward to for so long. Jeffrey, that’s sort of what God planned to help us prepare to meet Him. That’s Purgatory.”

“Isn’t it kind of like the pit stop for racing cars too? They get worked over, fixed up, checked, and they’re quickly on their way to the track again.”

“Purgatory is like the hallway or waiting room to Heaven. Everyone who gets to Purgatory knows he is headed for Heaven. Nobody gets turned back. It really doesn’t make sense to talk about ‘how long’ anyone needs to go through that clean-up job, because TIME doesn’t count anymore in Eternity. But some people’s souls will need more scrubbing than others, depending on how they lived on earth and what they did.”

“Is that where we get our sins forgiven?”

“No, our sins are already forgiven by Jesus while we are on earth. Everyone who gets to Purgatory doesn’t have sins anymore. God’s love and mercy took care of them once for all through Jesus. But the consequences of the wrong things we did need to be repaired in Purgatory too.”

“I don’t understand that, Grandma. If our sins are paid for by Jesus already, why do we still have to do anything about them?”

“Remember when you were playing on the street and you kicked your football really hard and it damaged someone’s pickup?”

“Oh yeah. I said I was sorry, and the owner said he forgave me. But Daddy still had to pay the bill to fix the man’s car.”

“How about you, Jeffrey?

“Ah—I still have to do a lot of stuff around the house to earn enough money to pay Daddy back for paying the bill.”

“Have you earned enough by now—even with the money I gave you to help toward your goal?”

“Nah. It’s going to take me a long time to earn that much.”

“That’s something like the repair work we have to do in Purgatory on the way to Heaven. Another good part about God’s plan is that His other family members on earth—us—can help those in Purgatory to pay their repair bills. The Church’s big word for that is ‘reparation.’”

“Really? How could we ever do that?”

“Through praying for them and doing good works on their behalf. We’ll talk more about that together some other time.”

“You mean if I pray for Marcy’s grandfather, since he might have to stop over in Purgatory for awhile on his way to Heaven, it would help him? I’ll do it!

“God really did think of everything, didn’t He, Jeffrey?”


1 comment:

Jennifer Botkin Phillips said...

I was so sorry to learn of the suicide of Jeffrey's friend's grandfather. Very sad. Jeffrey seemed to follow right along with you about getting to heaven. Jennifer