Most Catholics know the term ‘Purgatory’ as part of the experience of our journey to heaven, but what exactly does it mean? Is it the in-between place as God makes His ultimate judgment that decides our fate of heaven or hell? Quite the opposite.
Instead, Purgatory is one of the most merciful things that God ever created, for a soul must be perfect to enter heaven because the very definition of heaven is where everything is perfect.
“All who died 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.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).
Further, in paragraph 1031, the Catechism explains, “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.
“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”
In other words, Purgatory gets us ready for the glory of heaven so that we can become the perfection of ourselves in the presence of God. While that does not mean that we become perfect in the sense that God is infinitely perfect, we just become every bit of who we are supposed to be, who God intended for us to be at the beginning of creation.
That is why Purgatory is such a merciful gift of God.
If any of us were to die right now, we would have to go straight to hell because, even if we have confessed our sins, we are still not perfect, and nothing imperfect can be in heaven. But God is too merciful and loves us too much for that.