A friend emails me:
another quick question that hit me saturday night as i defended you catholics to a small crowd in our living room (for 2 hrs we argued praying to saints and liturgical worship), why did jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise on that day? what about purgatory first?
I replied with a hodge-podge of ideas:
The thief on the cross. I’m not sure I’ve seen him used as an example against purgatory. He is often used as an argument against the necessity of baptism which doesn’t hold because baptism is necessary in the normative sense, when it’s possible. And that baptism of blood (martyrdom) or baptism of desire can be sufficient in extreme cases.
As far as purgatory, purgatory is not necessarily quantifiable in earth-time. (days off vocabulary for purgatory was misleading in this area and is no longer used). So, even if Jesus literally meant “within this 24-hour period, you and I will be in heaven” it wouldn’t be a problem.
But I think there are still other problems with understanding this sentence: was Jesus physically in heaven that same day of earth-time?
One thing I’ve heard is this:
[quote=Luke 23:43]“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I’ve heard that the comma punctuation is arbitrary and not in the original and could easily mean I tell you the truth today, . . . Interesting…not sure on the scholarly background on that though.
I also read somewhere that “paradise” in this verse has been traditionally understood as “limbo of the fathers” or what in our former circles we called “abraham’s bosom”.
Though he uses a lot of catholic technical jargon here, St. Thomas might provide our answer, if I could understand it:
The affections of the heart are more acceptable to God than external acts. Now man is absolved from both punishment and guilt by means of external actions; and therefore he is also by means of the heart’s affections, such as contrition is.
Further, we have an example of this in the thief, to whom it was said (Luke 23:43): "This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise," on account of his one act of repentance.
It seems to me that he is saying this true contrition of the theif’s heart might require no further penance. therefore making purgatory unnecessary?
Any corrective or further info ya’ll could give me would be helpful! Thanks!