There is a quantity and quality of fruit that God expects us to produce in our earthly life (see Mt 21:33ff; Lk 13:6-9; Jn 15:1ff; 15:16). Our fruit of personal holiness and "good works" (Rv 14:13) "must endure" (Jn 15:16).
God is much more than "the Man upstairs" Who is our Friend. He is also our Judge, Who "will test the quality of each man's" good works and holiness (1 Cor 3:13). Some of the dead who die in the Lord will not have lived a life as fruitful as God expected it to be. God in His mercy will still grant them eternal life. Thus, these deceased folks "will suffer loss," yet "will be saved, but only as one fleeing through fire" (1 Cor 3:15).
There is a degree of "holiness without which no one can see the Lord" (Heb 12:14). What happens with the above folks who are granted eternal life yet are lacking in the enduring fruit and holiness God requires? Jesus has gone to "prepare a place" for us (Jn 14:2). As the above Scriptures indicate, He also has to prepare us for the place. If we have died in Christ, but aren't yet prepared for His place (see Heb 12:14), then Jesus has to finish the job before He can take us into the heavenly feast. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13), has taught that the above Scriptures and other truths indicate the existence of a "place" of purification (see Mal 3:2-3) we call purgatory. In purgatory, the souls of those who have not prepared themselves sufficiently in their time on earth are purified for the awesome privilege of seeing God face to face. Since they are fellow members of the body of Christ (Lk 20:38), we need them and they need us (1 Cor 12:21ff). Let us help them with our prayers.
Prayer: Father, may I grow daily in holiness now rather than later. I pray for the souls of those in purgatory to be speedily purified.
Praise: Praise You, Jesus, triumphant over death, risen in glory!
(This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, March 30, 2004
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 1, 2004
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