So I’ve had purgatory explained to me as making restitution for a broken window. I am forgiven for the act of breaking the window, but must make amends for the breakage. I’m not sure I understand this biblically. Surely Christ’s ‘It is finished’ indicates that the job of forgiveness is complete? In what sense can we be said to be forgiven if we still have to pay for the sin?
Forgiveness is independent of restitution. To go back to the “broken window” analogy, if a child breaks the window of his father’s house, the father will forgive his child, thereby reaffirming his love for the child. However, the father will have the child clean up the mess and do extra chores for a month to pay for a new window. Restitution helps to restore the damage done to the relationship.
Another analogy I used recently when talking to my family goes like this. A son disobeys his father. There is a big row and the father tells the son there is no television for a week.
They are both annoyed with each other and the father is extremely disappointed with his son.
Later that night the son, realising that he was wrong and feeling miserable as his father isn’t even talking to him at dinner, goes to his father privately and says sorry telling his father that he will not be impudent and disobedient in the future. His father, delighted, gives him an big hug and even comes in to talk to him in bed about common interests and plans for the future. But he reminds the son the television stays off for a week.
Does this help? I can understand forgiveness based on love and punishment based on justice to allow for lessons to be learned and respect for the father rightly given.
Another point we often fail to realise is the terrible glory of God and our wonderful gift of son-ship. If you hit a stranger in a bar you get a specific sentence for assault. If you attack a President, you get a much heavier sentence for the assault, if you don’t get shot on the spot. Thus the higher the authority insulted the higher the punishment. Thank the Lord for His mercy when we look at our sin from this perspective.That is why the justice of God required a similar authority of God, in the form of Jesus, both man and God, to take on the forgiveness and most of the retribution required for our massive insult.
Ah, so we’re talking about a qualitative difference between forgiveness and restitution? One is not the other?
I have a different analogy but not everyone else likes it. Sin doesn’t just break our relationship with God, it also harms us. Every sin makes our soul a little less presentable. Forgiveness takes away the sin entirely. As far as God is concerned, it’s forgiven and gone. But it doesn’t restore our injured soul to its pristine state.
Suppose you are invited to a formal wedding and banquet. The location is beautiful; the guests are dressed in tuxedos and gowns. You arrive and start to enter. Suddenly you notice that you are dirty and dressed in rags, or perhaps completely naked. Nobody stops you from going in, but you think, “I can’t go in there like this! I need to clean up first!” So you clean up before entering. That’s purgatory.
It is a very poor analogy.
You don’t need analogical ideas to understand purgatory. Nothing imperfect can enter heaven, come before God. Are you perfect? Do you have faults you are aware of that you know you need to work on? If you die in such a condition it does not mean you are forever lost. You can be perfected between here and heaven. You can also go through the process in this life. It is painful to see the things we have done we ought not have done. It is not a matter of feeling guilty. Guilt goes away when we experience mercy. But it still hurts to be made aware of things we regret having done and know we should not have done. This hurt is a purgation.
You are forgiven and know you are forgiven, but you remain sorry for whatever sin it is. There is no sorrow in heaven. You cant go there until it is destroyed and it does not always happen here. For you to know the joy of heaven this sorrow has to be destroyed. It is destroyed not forgotten or buried under a clean set of clothes.
The love of God is like a purifying fire. It burns away everything that is not of God. Are there things in your soul that should not be there? The fire of love will burn them away.
Yes but there is another aspect beyond the legal analogy…
Sin damages the soul. You must be perfect to enter heaven. You are forgiven now but you will probably sin again soon. The tendency to sin itself must be cleansed. And though in the context of the mystery of the second coming this is said to be ‘changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye’ that is part of the myster of the second coming and not necessarily how it is now.
While we must be forgiven the man who goes through life and pilfers a few post it note packs from the office is still a better person than the serial axe murderer. God promises to ‘forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. Christ will purge us. From the latin purgare [if memory is right] which the place of purging is understood as purgatorium and in english purgatory. The cleansing is a process. God will make both of these men perfect and cleanse the effects of sin but it will take more soap and water to cleanse the serial killer.
Or another analogy is the body shop. He will restore us after our accidents. But the amount of damage we have done to ourselves directly influences the amount of hammering on the fenders to straighten them that needs to be done.
Consider this short trip thru the images of cleansing and fire in the Bible : beyond-m42.net/blog/article/126/ It shows using the words of scripture what we as protestants often overlooked.
Through absolution in Confession, we are forgiven our sins, but those sins leave a stain on our souls that can only be removed by our crosses and sacrifices here on earth or our time in Purgatory.
The stain of our sins on our soul is what Purgatory cleanses.
Confession is the washing machine removing our sins, but leaving a stain. While Purgatory is the permanent stain remover.
We can enter Heaven only when our stains have been lifted and satisfaction of our sins have been made.
It’s common sense, but that’s not all:
… it fits with the ancient Semitic understanding that no one who is imperfect can see the face of God and live. (Hence, all the OT references to people averting their eyes from angels – that is, God’s messengers – because they knew that, if they were to gaze upon God, they would die.)
… it fits with Scripture: Paul tells us that now, we are corruptible, but in the eschaton, we’ll be incorruptible. This has a certain physical quality, but also a moral one. We need to be saved from our moral corruptibility, and that process of being made ready for heaven – that is, being made incorruptible – is what Catholics understand as ‘purgation’.