Having finished our lunch that day, one of my non-Catholic coworkers and I decided to take a walk around the building for a few minutes, just to get outside and away from bosses, phones, meetings and the other myriad joys to be found in and around the carpeted cells known as our offices.
While on our walk, he indicated that his preacher has no real issues with Catholics by and large, but has a massive problem with the Catholic faith, since it is not and probably never has been Christian. He said, “For example, the preacher says you guys have three ending spots, while we only have Heaven or Hell.”
Anti-Catholicism Based on Misunderstanding
I told him that in the late 1930’s, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen summed up the hatred toward the Catholic Church—either in one of his books or on a broadcast—by saying that there are not a hundred people in America who hated the Catholic Church. There were millions of people who hated what they wrongly believed to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.
I asked him, “Have you ever heard ‘Hocus Pocus’ as a term used to describe magic?” He indicated that yes, to him, all magic was little more than hocus pocus, smoke and trick mirrors. I told him that the term “hocus pocus” was first used as a criticism of the Catholic Church and is a misquotation of the words used in Consecration, “Hoc est corpus meum,” by which a simple piece of bread is transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ Jesus.
I told him, “You can check the Gospel of John in chapter 6, what we call the ‘Bread of Life Discourse’; after that, check the descriptions of the Last Supper and you will find what He said about His own body. We can explore that on another walk, but, for the moment, we need to dispel the three end points that your preacher said we have.”
The Confusion of the End Points
I told him that, as with the bulk of the religions of the world, there were only two end points, reward or punishment, Heaven or Hell. Where the confusion comes to be is actually in the Old Testament in a book not present in the KJV ( King James Version ).
I indicated that before we got to that point, we needed to explore a somewhat related topic. Suppose that Billy is out playing with his bat and ball one afternoon, and he hits a ball that races towards and through Mrs. Brown’s window. Knowing what he has to do, he goes to Mrs. Brown to apologize for the broken window. Her response is that she is pleased by his admission and that she forgives him.
I mentioned that, while it was great that he had been forgiven, Mrs. Brown still had a broken window. Billy was back at play and she was sweeping up broken glass and taking measurements for the replacement pane, etc. Somehow, Billy has to atone or make amends for the cost of the window. I continued that this is where the concept of purgation for sin, otherwise known as “Purgatory,” comes in, and may lead many people to think that Catholics have three end points. I told him that purgatory is not an end point, but simply a place to have impurities removed.
“O.K., maybe, but where do you guys get that from?” was his reply.
“In the Old Testament, both in a book we have in common and a few that are not in the KJV,” I responded.
I began by telling him that the second book of Samuel was written about 550 BC and that it was the same book in both the Catholic and Protestant Bibles. I continued that in chapter 12, David is told that because he has asked for forgiveness, the Father would forgive him for the adultery and murder he had committed, but there would still be a punishment exacted. So, even though David had been forgiven, he would still have to atone for the transgressions, just like Billy with the window.
“O.K., maybe I can agree with that, but are there any more references I can check out?”
The answer was, “Certainly.”
I suggested he look at a non-KJV translation of the Bible and research 2 Maccabees 12. The part I made reference to was near the end of the chapter, but much of the chapter was useful to describe the nature of purgation. At the end of the chapter, a collection is taken up to be given to the temple to help to atone for the sins of the dead.
Next, turn to Revelation and explore chapter 21 where we are told that nothing unclean will ever enter Heaven. I said, “Even if we have been forgiven, Mrs. Brown still has a broken window.” That broken window and the replacement of it may well be only a ghostly shadow on the robes we will wear, but it can still be seen and has to be dealt with and removed before we can move forward. I also reminded him of Matthew 5, where Christ was speaking of a fellow who would be imprisoned and not released until the last penny was paid back.
“There are only two final destinations, reward or punishment. Purgatory is the place where sins, although forgiven, may be made clean.”
We were almost back to the doors of the building when I concluded, “If you have any further questions on the purgation of sins, please get back to me, and I will give you another few resources to check. Otherwise, it is time to go back to our carpeted cells.”
Are there three?
No, only two. However, continue to aim for Heaven. If you miss it, there may well be Purgatory to help you expunge and get prepared for Heaven. If, on the other hand, you aim for Purgatory and miss, where does that leave you?