Thursday, June 12, 2008

Until you've paid the last penny

Today's Gospel is one of my faves, Matthew 5:20-26. It wraps up with Jesus warning the disciples about the perils of anger because even being angry makes one liable for judgment. Anyways, Christ ends the discussion with the following:

Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,and the judge will hand you over to the guard,and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you,you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

When folks get quizzed about where Purgatory is in the Bible, they tend to ignore this verse, though it's meaning seems pretty clear. If we're talking about God's judgment and the afterlife, which it certainly seems that we are here, what is all this about paying and getting out? It surely isn't hell, as hell is eternal. I doubt anyone would claim that it's heaven. So what is it then? Of course, we also must ignore the fact that anyone who really has to look for Purgatory in Scripture is probably using a mutilated version which excludes 2 Maccabees.

Anyways, the best part of this analogy used by Christ is that once you come around to it being Purgatory, you begin to see the operation of the communion of saints. The image of the brother standing in to pay the last penny for you is a reassuring one. It's also kind of challenging when you consider all those folks currently suffering and in need of our assistance who go completely ignored by so many in the world today. Paying that last penny could take a loooooong time.

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