God is Definitely Not Mean
By Fr. Andy Davy, MIC (Nov 15, 2012)
Every Nov. 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day, a day in which the Church remembers and offers prayers for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory that they might be purified of any stain of sin still keeping them from fully entering into the beatific vision of heaven. Our modern culture does not like to speak about Purgatory, and many Catholics unfortunately do not believe in its existence. For many, the existence of Purgatory speaks of a lack of mercy on God's part — that God is mean. There could be nothing further from the truth.
The great Christian writer from England, C. S. Lewis, once said that our souls demand the existence of Purgatory, and that it is not God who imposes Purgatory upon us, but we impose it on ourselves. For Scripture teaches us that we cannot enter the presence of God with even the tiniest stain of sin. But what does that mean for us? Most of us right now probably are not totally free from sin, especially in those areas in which we might be half-aware that we are sinning. Those areas in which we say, "X is bad, but really not that bad ..." Sin is still sin however small, and none of it can be in the presence of God.
This would create a huge problem if it were not for the mercy of God. God desires all of us to be saved, and He is a loving Father who desperately wants His children to be with Him in heaven. God has given us all the graces we need to become living saints here on earth. But many people die in an intermediate state of holiness: They have died in the friendship of God, but they are still not sufficiently ready for this marriage of eternal love. Purgatory is God's hearing of the cry of His children not ready to meet Him: "Please Lord, I desire healing to spend eternity with You." Instead of casting these souls away from Him on account of their imperfections, His Father's heart is moved, and He grants the plea of His children. It is not God who imposes Purgatory upon us, but we impose it on ourselves.
This delay of union with God face to face is the suffering of the souls in Purgatory. But this is not the suffering of despair found in Hell. This suffering is very different. It is the suffering of love. The suffering in Purgatory is a suffering filled with hope — for the souls in Purgatory know that, without a doubt, they will be with God in heaven. Because of this certain hope of their future, their suffering can be said to still contain a tremendous joy — the joy of knowing that, with each moment, they move closer to the One whom their hearts longs for. This joyful suffering is similar to the suffering endured by runners in the final stretch of a marathon race. It hurts. It is painful. But with each step they come closer to victory. No runner is forced to finish. But knowing the prize drives them on willingly and joyfully.
Purgatory shows God's generous mercy. He does not leave us even in death, but gives us the means of healing beyond the grave to receive God's love perfectly. He meets us in our weakness, and He helps us to rise above it. Is this not how God also works with us during our lives? Let us thank the Lord for allowing Purgatory to exist.
And the Lord gives us — the living — the honor to be a part of the healing process of the Holy Souls. Just as our prayers for one another in life have an impact, so to do our prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The Lord has willed it that the prayers we offer for our deceased loved ones can help purify them of any residue of sin. What a beautiful act of love — helping our loved ones to enjoy perfect love with God! This is why we celebrate Masses for the deceased and why we pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy for them. We love them, and we desire their perfect happiness. Let us pray that "Eternal rest may be granted unto them and perpetual light be shined upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace."
Father Andy Davy, MIC, serves at St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois.