If Forgiven, why must we be Purged?
This question is right on since as Catholics our belief in Purgatory stands as a controversy with too many. When watching some TV evangelists you’ll hear a subtle expression playing down purgatory, always knowing it is a slightly underhanded comment against Catholicism.
I often chuckle when some evangelists throw a comment into their presentation that goes against Catholic doctrines and the theological premise that makes some people squirm a little. We know that quite a few Catholics have left their original faith for other sects. And when these comments are thrown out to the audience the once Catholic worshipers feel the pain of being ostracized.
Purgatory appears to be the number one assault, but other attributes of our doctrines are Mary, as the Mother of God, the Blood of Jesus is only divine with no human element in it. These are painful since our teaching is 2,000 years of tradition, theological experience, and the continued teaching of Sacred Scripture as well, which the others feel they have the Word as being theirs alone.
Purging something is to purify the essence of anything, or in some instances anyone. Take molten steel for instance. The metallic ingredients that are heated to extreme degrees to remove any impurities the steel must be purged in order to be strong enough to hold buildings erect, withstand the many tons of vehicular traffic on bridges, and give assurance to the people who will work, live, or walk across with the feeling of safety. As an electrical inspector I witnessed the purging of steel as many thousands of volts was placed in the vat via three-phase current probes inserted in the liquid. This process is known as removing the dross which can compromise the integrity of the finished product. If left alone without purifying the steel, its impurity will cause any product using this metal will surely collapse under use. If the person is buying or using a product with impurity they will likely have a lawsuit on their hands.
Several years ago, when Notre Dame Cathedral almost collapsed from the infamous fire that most of us witnessed, its rebuilding must ensure that every piece of wood, steel, concrete, and trades equipment is purged from any impure materials. Without the most intense inspections of each item used in rebuilding this cathedral, the possibility of another catastrophe could occur.
Looking around the country, and other areas as well, we have seen bridges collapse, buildings under construction fall, and many other supposedly secure structures fail because of impure products that by-passed a thorough inspection to safeguard their use.
Spending time in purgatory, if we may place the period spent there in that sense, is in no way punishment for sin. As steel is purged to remove impurities that may still be in the iron ore, severe heat is applied to make certain the finished product is beyond any scrutiny which makes it ready for use at its best. When our souls are forgiven of sin, there may still be a small impurity such as residue we haven’t removed by paying back the weight of retaining the due to those we hurt. Because of this, the dross must be skimmed off of our forgiven soul in order to become pure, as God is pure. We must be exactly as pure and holy like God before our presence will be accepted into his presence. Since even as all ministers believe no one is free from sin and all fall short of God’s grace, all must prepare for the final entrance before God, purified and made holy.
Ralph B. Hathaway