Before Achieving The Presence Of God, There Is Often What's Called 'Expiation'
By Michael H. Brown
The question arises all the time: if we go to Confession, if we have already received forgiveness for our sins, why should we be concerned about purgatory?
The answer comes in one word: expiation.
That's when we have been forgiven but have not yet done the necessary penance. It's when we have fallen back in the eyes of God -- have lessened the effects of the forgiveness we were granted -- and still have to be purified, still have to make atonement. As Fatima seer Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart says in her new book, purgatory is a place where we "purify ourselves from any minor faults that we have not confessed" and make "any reparation we still owe for our sins because, while we were still living in this world, we had not done enough penance for them."
The famous seer (still cloistered at a convent in Coimbra, Portugal) cites the example of Matthew 18: 21-35 -- where a man is held in jail until paying his debts because he himself showed little forgiveness to those who owed him. He still needed to reform himself.
What relevance does that have for us? How may it relate to what we may face at our own "judgment"?
"To begin with," replies Sister Lucia, "the servant in the parable begged for complete forgiveness for everything, and this was granted. But he then sinned again by his cruelty to his fellow servant, with the result that he ended up having to do penance and to pay all he owed to his master. This is what will happen to us, as Jesus Christ showed by the conclusion of His story. The same thing will happen to us if, in addition to the forgiveness for our sins which we ask for and receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have not also made suitable reparation for them."
The seer, who seems destined for sainthood, also cites the Book of Macabees, specifically 2 Macabees 12:36-46. "This passage from Sacred Scripture helps us to understand better this truth of our faith concerning purgatory as a place of expiation where the souls of those who die in grace are purified of all stain of sin before being admitted to eternal happiness with God," she writes in Calls From the Message of Fatima (the most requested book in the history of our website).
Put another way, when we sin, we taint ourselves -- we allow evil a certain hold on our territory -- and this taint must often be cleansed by formal forgiveness and acts of atonement. "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven," says the Catholic Catechism.
That's what purgatory is: a place of penance.
Another nun -- this one the voice of an allegedly deceased religious who dictated a booklet known as An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory to a living nun in 19th-century France (a revelation which received a cardinal's formal imprimatur) -- described purgatory as a place with a number of levels. "In the second purgatory are the souls of those who died with venial sins not fully expiated before death, or with mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which they have not made entire satisfaction to the Divine Justice," she said.
There is the word again: expiation, which Webster's defines as "making amends." Another definition is the word we used above: atonement, which means to make reparation. Confession absolves our sins, saves us from hell, and sets us on the course of expiation, but it's up to us to maintain the purity that Confession grants us. That means purging ourselves not only of blatant sin but also imperfection.
Can we expiate on earth?
Of course. Many trials of life are sent as opportunities for us to do just that. Through suffering and the trials of life, we can purify. That's why suffering is seen by saints as a gift. "Some souls have their Purgatory on earth by suffering, others by love, for love is a true martyrdom," said the nun.
As for plenary indulgences, the Church-approved revelation claimed that "few people gain them entirely. There has to be such a wonderful disposition of heart and will that it is rare, much rarer than you think it is, to have an entire remission of one's faults. In purgatory, we receive only the indulgences applied to us by way of suffrage, as God permits according to our dispositions."
That's the expiation side of things. That's the purification. But at the other end is paradise! "Try to love God now so much that you will not have to come here in order to learn how to love Him through sufferings which are without merit," said the nun. "The sufferings on earth are meritorious, therefore, do not lose them -- but above all, love. Love wipes out many faults and makes one avoid them so as not to give pain to the One we love."
And as this nun related, no matter the sufferings of Purgatory, souls are joyful knowing that once they are completely cleansed -- once every stain is purged -- they are headed for the ineffable Presence of God.
[Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory are available in our bookstore. It has our highest recommendation]
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