Why are most of us not ready for heaven if we were to die right now? Scripture tells us:
- The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it (Revelation 21:26-27a).
- So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
- “Be holy because I [am] holy.” (1 Peter 1:16b)
We are not ready because we are not clean, perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, nor holy as Christ is holy. When we at long last die with the grace of final perseverance, we may leave this world with unabsolved venial sins and a lifetime of temporal damage from past sins. It is through the refiners fire (Malachi 3:2-3) of purgatory that the imperfections on our soul like wood, hay or straw will be removed leaving gold, silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) suitable for heaven.
Part of our problem is attachment to sin. Understanding that as an impediment to heaven is obvious.
There is, I believe, another attachment impediment: addiction to life. We love life – all the joys and hope it offers – and are often more oriented toward it then we are toward its author. Fr. Leo Clifford made this point very well in one of his reflections:
We fall in love with God’s gifts and forget the giver. We give our love to mere creatures and we forget that they are God’s gifts to us. We are so in love with his gift of life, we never want to part with it. We want to stay here instead of going back to the author of life, the God for whom we were made.The Love of God
There has been much speculation on the nature of purgatory. We know it is not Heaven nor Hell. It is not a place in between either, as it is the portico of Heaven. All who enter purgatory ARE saved. For that matter, it is not a place either and “how long” we are there is a complicated concept because it is outside of time. All we know, while we are still in time, is that we must pray for the souls in purgatory (they can pray for us too).
I still like my earlier conception of purgatory as a hospital for the soul. Like any hospital, treatment varies from person to person as does the length of treatment. Treatment is often painful. Unlike earthly hospitals, there is a 100% cure rate.
In the paradigm I am presenting here, “addiction” is a good fit for the primary disease of which we must be cured. Those who are not addicted will not have unabsolved venial sins and have turned completely to God. For them, no treatment is necessary. For most of us (I suspect), some amount of time in purgatory’s 12-step program (as I imagine it) will be necessary. We must let go of our addiction to life and replace it by union with God.
So, what might those 12 steps be? Adapting from Wikipedia’s article for alcoholics, we lifeoholics might need to:
- Acknowledge our addiction to life and open ourselves to healing power of the Holy Spirit.
- Abandon our false idols, uniting our will with God alone.
- Turn ourselves completely over to God.
- Make a searching and fearless inventory of our addiction to life.
- Admit to God and to ourselves the nature of our addiction to life. In the Church Militant: also use the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Be entirely ready to have God remove these defects.
- Humbly ask God to cleanse our shortcomings.
- Recognize the effects of our life addiction and how it separates us from God.
- Pray for forgiveness.
- Continue to take personal inventory and address our shortcomings as we recognize them.
- Seek through prayer and meditation to complete our unity with God, praying only for knowledge of His will and His power to carry that out.
- In the Church Militant: help others; In the Church Suffering: enter the Church Triumphant!
The good news is that we can begin our treatment NOW. Progress that we make here on earth will lessen the necessary treatment later.
O Lord, who art ever merciful and bounteous with Thy gifts, look down upon the suffering souls in purgatory. Remember not their offenses and negligences, but be mindful of Thy loving mercy, which is from all eternity. Cleanse them of their sins and fulfill their ardent desires that they may be made worthy to behold Thee face to face in Thy glory. May they soon be united with Thee and hear those blessed words which will call them to their heavenly home: “Come, blessed of My Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Fr. John P. O’Connell