One of the things that seems to confuse our non-Catholic Christian brethren is the subject of purgatory. Those who enter purgatory are guaranteed to go to heaven at some point. Purgatory is not a second chance at redemption, and nor is it a permanent destination. The church has always taught what the scriptures teach in Hebrews 9:27, “And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (NRSV). It is a place that individuals go who have died in the friendship of God, but who must be purified before they enter the presence of God. This is also echoed in Revelation 21:27 which states, “But nothing unclean will enter it” (NRSV).
After death each person will be judged. Immediately after death, each person’s immortal soul will be judged by God according to his/her faith and works. One may be judged worthy to go straight to Heaven, maybe to go to purgatory to be cleansed of the consequence of venial sin, or to hell for unrepentant mortal sin. It is in this regard that hell and purgatory are similar. They are both a consequence of sin, but they are vastly different because Hell is permanent, and purgatory is temporary. Heaven and purgatory are vastly different from hell because hell is eternal separation from God. Regarding this the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created” (Catechism para 1035). Heaven, the resurrection of the body, and the Eucharist speak to the body culture that makes up our culture today. The answer to our youthful body obsessed culture is the true fountain of youth-the risen, immortal, glorified Christ in the Eucharist. We will only get eternal, youthful glory with a glorified body in Heaven. Jesus is this, and we are what we eat. For us to get to Heaven we must have faith in Christ and live the way he tells us to live. He tells us to be responsible for our own behavior. Christ will come again, and at that time the last judgment will commence. Jesus states in John 5:29 “and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (NRSV). He also comes every week in the form of the blessed sacrament to help us to endure the challenges of life and make good decisions. He gives us the very gift of himself to help us do the things he wants us to do.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Doubleday Books. New York, NY: 1995. Print.
Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version