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Purgatory 煉 獄

刊登日期: 2011.10.28
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

May the souls of all the faithful departed,
Through the mercy of God,
Rest in peace.  Amen.


Last year I wrote about All Saints Day(諸聖節).   We also looked at what “ghost” was about, that there was no such thing as haunting ghosts.

This year I will write about November 2, All Souls Day (追思亡者節).  On that day we pray for all those who have died.  It is similar to our Ching Ming Festival(清明節).  
Let me begin by going over the Four Last Things(萬民四末):  Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  We know that when we die we will be judged.  Those who are perfect will go to Heaven and those who are really bad (with mortal sin) will go to Hell.  But what about those who are not really, really bad (having only venial sins)?  We Catholics believe that we will go to Purgatory(煉獄).  The word itself is not in the Bible.  The concept is, in various places. I will use one.

In Mt. 21: 18-34 is the story about a servant who owed his master a huge debt.  He begged his master to give him time.  His master instead forgave the entire debt!  This servant has a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount, but he refused to forgive him his debt.  The master was angry with the first servant and “handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”  This parable is not just about forgiving others.  It also points to the judgment we will face when we die.  The question is: where is this place of torture where we will not be released “until we pay back the whole debt?”  This could not be Hell where there is no escape.  This “place” is called purgatory where we will be purged, gotten rid of, any debt we still owe to God.

We already looked at how, at our judgment, any of the sins we have committed AND confessed will no longer be held against us.  What are left, venial sins, penance not done, remain our responsibility.  True, Jesus died for ALL our sins.  But we have to allow Him to take them away from us.  This is God’s justice. 

But God does not simply abandon us if we die not yet perfect.  This is God’s mercy.  He will cleanse us from our imperfections, by His Grace.  This too is part of the amazing story of the Good News of Jesus.  This gives us HOPE.  When we are struggling with ourselves, we don’t give up.  We daily come before Jesus and pray that we would be forgiven “as we forgive those who sin against us.”  We, the Church and the whole world, are in it together.

On All Souls Day, we particularly remember all the dead and pray for them.  Jesus expects us to.  As the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ(基督的奧體), our prayers are joined to the suffering and death of Jesus.  He wants us to care not only for our own salvation but for all our hurting brothers and sisters.  Not only do we remember the dead on All Souls Day, but those who have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus(耶穌聖心)also make an effort to go to Mass and pray for the souls in purgatory on first Fridays of the month.  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque(聖瑪加利大) tells us that if we do that, we will not be deprived of a priest at our death.  What a comforting thought!

Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父



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