Bulletin Letter – 6/23/24

June 22-23, 2024

Dear parishioners,

As summer is now well under way, many of us have been attending the fun events that summer brings: graduation parties, weddings, cookouts, family gatherings, etc.  While there is much to enjoy about these gatherings (after all, summer really is the best!), many of us know that these same events can also be occasions for others to ask pointed questions about what the Catholic Church teaches.  Some people are genuinely asking out of a desire to learn more about the Church and to have an open conversation.  However, my experience has been that many people who ask these questions in social settings are not usually open to discussing these topics for very long, and may be more interested in putting me “on the spot.”  

But, whatever someone’s motive might be for asking us about what the Church teaches on any particular topic, we should at least try to take them where they are at and engage them for at least as long as they might be willing to listen and discuss.  No matter what the topic, many people often ask, “Well, where is that in the bible?”  One such topic about which people ask us is Purgatory.  So, if you have found yourself in this situation, you can keep the following verses in your back pocket for when the question comes up again.

2 Maccabees 12:42-46 details how some Jewish “soldiers” took a collection and sent it to Jerusalem so that an “expiatory sacrifice” might be offered for their comrades who fell in battle.  As this passage states, “Thus he made atonement for the dead, that they might be freed from this sin.”  If you cite this passage, the other person will almost always respond that 2 Mac. is only in the Catholic bible, and is not a real book of the bible.  When they say that, you can respond that it was Luther and the other “reformers” who removed 2 Mac. from the bible.

Jesus himself makes clear that Purgatory is real: “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Mt. 5:25-26, Lk. 12:58-59).  He makes the same point in Mt. 18:23-35 when he tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.  The servant whose actions are forgiven by his master proceeds to not forgive the smaller debts that others owe him.  As a result, “Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt. 18:23-35).  As we see, Jesus makes it very clear that “paying the last penny” is more than just about money and earthly debt, since it is what his heavenly Father will ask of each of us.

In the context of turning away from temptation, Jesus says, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.  For every one will be salted with fire.  Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mk. 9:49).  We will be salted with fire; even the temporary fire of Purgatory burns from us whatever attachment we might still have to sin after we die.

St. Paul also mentions Purgatory in 1 Cor. 3:11-15.  “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”  St. Paul is certainly talking about the judgment each person faces after death.  A purging fire will make manifest our good deeds and will burn away our sinful ones.

I hope this information helps in your next conversation on this topic!  


Fr. Ammanniti