Eternity 101: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

Fr. Martin began his session on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by calling up a volunteer from the crowd and asking her if she is “saved”. “Raise your hand if you think this teen is saved,” he asked the crowd. He was impressed when only a few hands went up. Then he asked if she was redeemed. Many more people raised their hands. He nodded and then clarified, “We are all redeemed, but we are in the process of being saved.” Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for our sins, but we could still reject Him.

What happens when we die?

Our lives are brief compared to eternity. So this is what we should remind ourselves when we have to make the sacrifice to choose what is good and pure and holy. When we die we all have the immediate judgment. At the end of all time, Jesus will come back. There will be no more confusion about Jesus and there will be a final judgement.

Heaven

“Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they ‘see Him as He is’, face to face.” (CCC1023) Heaven, at its core, is a relationship. It’s the perfect communion with the Trinity. “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.”  (CCC 1024).

Fr. Martin said if we remember anything, he wants us to remember this, “The meaning of life is communion. Communion is the fruit of love. It is to know and be known, and be in perfect relationship to another.”

Purgatory

According to the Catechism (CCC 1030), “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.” Father Martin explains, “Heaven is perfect…perfect harmony, fulfillment of desire. If it is perfect, then God must heal, or purge, those who don’t belong. Purgatory is God’s love, grace and mercy preparing us for perfect communion.”

He further explained, “Think of purgatory like a hospital. Sometimes the medicine hurts, but you know you are getting better. Some people go for a cold, some go for cancer…but it takes longer for cancer than it does for a cold. Once you enter into eternity, the time will be nothing. Everyone in purgatory is on their way to Heaven.”

Hell

Fr. Martin instructed us that even Hell is a state of relationship. “When you feel isolated and alone in your life…that is an experience of Hell. If I make someone feel isolated and alone, I am an agent of hell,” he said. If we help those who are isolated and alone, then we are an agent for Heaven.

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves (CCC 1033). God does not send anyone to Hell. God acknowledges that some people choose not to live with him forever.

Gay/Transgender– What about those who are gay or transgender? Are they condemned to hell? Fr. Martin said, “No one is. God does not create anyone to be condemned. We all have a sexuality in need of purification and redemption. It just looks different among each of us. They (gay and transgender) are not radically different from each of us. God invites all of us, no matter what our struggle may be, to turn to him to be purified.”

Suicide– If someone commits suicide, do they go to hell? The Church says- someone that struggles with depression- their free will has been compromised. We recognize that you are still culpable but it is limited. We are not the judge of heaven, hell or purgatory. Jesus is.

Fr. Martin concluded with a prayer, “Jesus help us to cooperate with the process of salvation.”

 

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Written by Missy Naumann
Missy Naumann lives in St. Charles, MO with her husband Ted and their four kids; Sam, Abby, Ben and Mary. Since her kids are now all teenagers and older, she keeps up on their activities by stalking their SnapChat accounts. Her day job is working for a social service agency in St. Charles, Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, photography, and the great outdoors!