St Francis Q&A

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prayer and sacrifice

Another comment from the talks on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory:
“those in purgatory are those who died in the state of grace but who are not yet ‘cleansed’ enough for Heaven. When we are sorry and confess our sins, God forgives us, but the damage to our soul remains even after we are forgiven. But, penance is an act of atonement and a means by which to repair our soul. Prayer and sacrifice are also ways to right our wrongs, aren’t they? So, is it possible that some completely atone for their sins here on earth?”

As yesterday’s post indicated, we can repair sins in this life through acts of penance - prayers and sacrifices would be included in that. It is possible to atone for many sins on earth, but the only ones who “completely atone” for their sins on earth are martyrs. They are the only ones who go straight to Heaven because they are perfectly purified through their baptism by blood. All of this discussion about “acts of reparation” and repairing our sins is all under the heading of and because of the Grace of Christ, of course.

Here are my notes from the 1st talk on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory:

1. Does Heaven exist?

Gen 1:1 "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth" (Heaven is as real as earth)
Exodus 16: manna – "bread from heaven"
Mt 3: 16-17: – "And suddenly there was a voice from heaven…this is my beloved son"
Jn 1:33 – "I saw the spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him"

Jesus refers to Heaven about 170 times in the Gospels(Heaven, Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Life, and Eternal Life)
-"how blessed are the poor in spirit: the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs" (Mt 5:3)
-"there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7)

Throughout the NT:
St. Paul: "God…gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6)
Acts: "This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven" (1:11)
Revelation: "Then, in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven" (4:1)
" Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth" (21:1)

Early Church
St Cyprian (3rd cent.) "to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends

Magisterium of the Church
Pope Benedict XII (1336): "According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints…have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ" (Benedictus Deus)

2. What is Heaven like?

Jesus: kingdom of heaven is like:
- " a buried treasure"
- "a great pearl" (Mt 13:44-46)
- "a wedding feast" (Mt 22:1; Mt 25:1); "wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7)
- "the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father" (Mt 13:43)
- whatever we sacrifice for Christ in this life, we will receive " a hundred times as much…now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life" (Mk 10:30-31)

Paul : "what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9)

St. John: "see him as he really is" (1 Jn 3:2)
Revelation: 21: 1-4

Saints / doctors of the Church
St Catherine of Siena:"The indescribable sweetness of this perfect union cannot be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing"

Magisterium of the Church
- "Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (CCC, # 1024)

a. Does it exist?

Jesus- refers to Hell 28 times and eternal punishment about 90 times in the Gospels
- uses the terms Hades, Gehenna, Eternal Fire, Field of blood
- Mk 9:43-48, e.g.
- Mt 10:28-“fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell”
- Mt 25:46- those who don’t care for the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters “will go away to eternal punishment”

-“wailing and grinding of teeth”
- the good-for-nothing servant (Mt 25:30)
- children of the kingdom (of darkness) – Mt 8:12
- the man not dresses for the wedding feast – Mt 22:13

Paul-(2 Thess 1:9) for those who “refuse to accept the gospel of our Lord Jesus…their punishment is to be lost eternally, excluded from the presence of the Lord”

Church – early Church Fathers described Hell as “eternal punishment” ; affirmed by early Church councils and Pope Benedict XII (1336)

- Fatima* – vision of Hell by children: sea of fire; demons and souls with burning embers, black and transparent; terrifying looking animals; children cried out for all to hear

b. What is it like? (we only know what’s been revealed to us)

Scripture (described above)

Church- “hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned and in which they are deprived of the sight of God and are in dreadful torments for all eternity” (Baltimore Catechism)

- pain of loss- being separated by God, rejected by Christ (“I know you not”-Mt 25:12)
- shame, regret, despair

- pain of sense (torments)
-“fire” (of Gehenna)
– “the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out” (Mt 3:12)
- principal means of torments that will be different than earthly fire because it will affect both body and soul

- the pain of the sense will be as nothing compared to the pain of loss

- “We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to avoid it” (St. John Chrysostom)

- Hell is eternal separation from God (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
- “hell is not a punishment imposed by God…it is the natural consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God” (Pope John Paul II)
- basically, when the person dies, he sees the face of God and he realizes at that moment that he is not worthy to be with God for all eternity; he realizes that he chose hell during his life (GWS)

-the term is not used in Scripture; comes from the Latin word, “purgatorium” (place of purging fire or purification)

a. Does it exist?

– refers to situations where a punishment / purification must occur:
Lk 12:59 – being in prison“I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny”
Jn 16:20 – “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy”
- speaks about forgiveness of sins in next life
Mt 12:32 – “Let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next”
- implication is made about forgiveness of sins in next life; really about satisfaction for sins (forgiveness before death – confession, e.g.; satisfaction after death – purg., e.g.)

2 Macc 12:46 - the valiant Judas “had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sins”
- shows that the Jewish custom was to pray for the dead; must be for souls in a state other than Heaven or Hell
- don't need to pray for the souls in Heaven, and it does no good to pray for the souls in Hell
- custom continues whenever someone prays for all the souls in Purgatory

1 Cor 3:15 (salvation through a purifying fire)being saved as “from a fire”
1 Peter 1:7 - “your faith, more valuable than gold and which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved”

Magisterium: “a cleansing fire, a purifying fire” (pain suffered is comparable to the pain of fire on earth)

b. What is it like?
Scripture (see above)

St Augustine: “this fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world”

St Francis de Sales: “The greater part of those who dread Purgatory so much think more of their own interests than of the interests of God’s glory; this proceeds from the fact that they think only of the sufferings without considering the peace and happiness which are enjoyed by the holy souls”

Rev. T.G. Morrow: “there will be tremendous suffering accompanied by a tremendous sense of peace and joy knowing that the soul will be united with God”

- after death, the soul sees that it is not yet spotless, and “would cast itself into a thousand hells rather than find itself in the presence of the Divine Majesty with that stain on it” (St Catherine of Genoa)

“she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, holy and faultless” (Eph 5:27)


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