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LENTEN READING: WHEN A SOUL SPEAKS OF FIRE, IS IT HELL OR SOMETIMES LOWEST PURGATORY?

Intriguing it is, the Scripture reading on Thursday, of the rich man who died and found himself in flames.

The account is in Luke 16 and is about the blindness of wealth, worldliness, and self-absorption.

When we have pride, everything -- including prayer -- bounces off of us. We meet with misfortune.

But let's get back to the story:

Is the Gospel about hell or -- the question of the week -- could it be about purgatory?

"Jesus said to the Pharisees: 'There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich manís table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, "Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames." Abraham replied, "My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours."'"

While we assume that fire implies hell, one could recall that at the purgatory museum in Rome are artifacts whereby poor souls have left burned impressions of their hands, and in the An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory, which has ecclesiastic approval, a deceased nun described the lowest level of purgatory as having flames and "great suffering."

She also described the "great distance" between purgatory and Heaven -- reminding us of the "great chasm" mentioned in the reading.

"I am much relieved," said the 19th-century revelation, "as I am no longer in the fire."

At that lowest level, a soul does not benefit from prayers, she claimed.

"The fire of purgatory is a purification prescribed by God's Justice and that of earth is very mild to that of purgatory," she allegedly added -- for your discernment. (Would a soul from hell be allowed communication?)

As for prayers, they may be less effective for those at the lowest level, but they have a huge impact on other souls -- and prayers for those suffering fire will one day accrue for them. It is the time of year to especially pray for all deceased. The veil thins. We offer sacrifice.

As for fire, there is this big difference: however much the suffering of lowest purgatory, the soul knows that one day it will get out.

[resources: Hungry Souls and An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory]
 

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