First let’s make something really clear. Anyone who is saved, is saved because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. Period. Without that act of love, it wouldn’t matter what we did; we could not be saved.
Now what about purgatory? Anyone who is in purgatory is already saved. Everyone should be grateful for purgatory because while some of us may try to do God’s will perfectly, we often fail, and unless we are perfect, we cannot be there. Heaven is all about love, love of God, and love of neighbor. That is his will for us. To love one another as Christ loved us. We must be perfected in love to get to heaven. Until we are perfected in love, we cannot be in God’s presence (Mt 5:48; Heb 12:14;Rev. 21:27).
True love is demonstrated by giving of ourselves. So when we do good works out of love, in a mysterious way they are joined to Christ’s work on the cross…the ultimate act of love. If they are simply self-serving works, they have no merit (Gal. 5:4-6).
The Church did not make this up. The Church teaches it, but it is Christ who said it first (Mt 25:31-46).
So God, in his perfect wisdom, arranged it so that if we do acts of love for others (which includes praying) it helps us grow in love while helping the other do so as well.
At this point you might want to read Mark 2:4-5:
[size=3][font=Times New Roman]Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Notice whose faith Jesus saw that prompted him to cure the paralytic. Was it the paralytic’s, the four who carried him to Jesus, those who opened the roof, or all of the above? Was it enough to just believe? Well, yes and no. *Because *they believed, they did something. They did a good work for their friend by bringing him to Jesus. His cure was the result.
That is why we pray for those in purgatory. In some mysteriuos way, our sacrifices and prayers help those who are there. But it is Jesus who heals. So purgatory is not so much a place as a process whereby all that is not love is purged from the soul. What remains is a saint, which is a holy one.