Let’s Talk About Heaven and Hell

We’re a week into Lent so why not?  Most people don’t want to hear about hell.  Satan has done a very good job convincing us that he doesn’t exist and that hell doesn’t exist.  But, trust me, they do.  In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus spells it out pretty well.  First He says, “I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  (Where else will you go?)

Then He says, “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.'”  (That’s where you’ll go.)  When we leave this earth we have two choices, heaven or hell.  Good or bad.  Saint or sinner.

Become a saint or go to hell!

Pretty simple, but there is another destination to consider.  It’s a place called “Purgatory”.  It comes from the same root as “purge”.  There is nothing unclean in heaven.  Before we can get in we have to get cleaned up.

My wife loves me, but if  I’ve been working on the car and I’m all muddy and greasy, she’s not going to let me into the house until I’ve cleaned up.  That’s purgatory.  It’s like heaven’s mud room.

We don’t talk about purgatory much anymore.  In fact, very seldom will you go to a funeral and hear the priest talking about grandma being cleaned up.  It’s hardly ever done, even though it should be.  It’s what we believe.  We have to spend a certain amount of time in purgatory.  Nobody knows how much time.  It may be seconds.  It may be centuries.  We just don’t know.  My biggest fear has always been that I’d get to purgatory and run into Saint Peter.

But that brings me to a little thing called an indulgence.  There are two types of indulgences:  plenary and partial.  A partial indulgence, as the name implies, relieves us of SOME  of our time in purgatory.  A plenary indulgence takes away all of our time in purgatory.

It came up today because we have the Stations of the Cross at my church on Fridays during Lent.  Participating in the Stations gets you a plenary indulgence.  There are three other things you have to do, just as you do with any plenary indulgence.  1.  Go to communion.  2.  Go to confession.  3.  Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.  That usually means saying an Our Father and reciting the Creed.

One wonders, if praying the Stations on Friday during Lent takes away all my time in purgatory, what motivates me to do it six times?  Well, you can give an indulgence away but not to anyone who’s still living.  So, you can pass one of your six indulgences along to your mother who’s passed away, or your father, or grandma, or any of your departed friends or relatives.  Pretty cool, huh?

So, why don’t we hear more about this?  Well, way back in the day (like the Middle Ages) people were selling indulgences.  That was never allowed, but people did it and it was one of the things that got Martin Luther’s undies in a knot and why there are thousands of Protestant churches in the world today.  Marty’s 95 Theses opened the floodgates of dissent against the Church.

Anyway, you can usually find the Stations of the Cross at a nearby church.  It takes about 15-20 minutes which is a pretty low price to pay for avoiding purgatory.  Go get some fish and go to the Stations of the Cross.  That’s what Lent is all about!

heaven or hell

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