Radiate Mercy and Build.

The energy of self-righteousness and critique of others could be turned into the power to build them by forgiveness and affirmation. Our negative critiques are like lighting candles at noon on an overpowering spring day – to  build up ourselves. Lamentable!

Can we make up for the sin in each other? Instead of complaining and judging others negatively, why not restore goodness by taking the sin on ourselves and killing it in ourselves. Looking up this morning at Joe Donadio standing in his pickup truck shoveling dirt (?) and blinded by an absolutely radiant sun, I said, look at the radiation coming from that sun, and it’s going day and night, or does it go off at night? And he said, “that radiation has to be coming from somewhere!” – and we were both blinded.

Why not radiate goodness and forgiveness like the sun? The fact that God has had mercy on us and that we are forgiven – and saved – does not mean that there is not evil in us, and that in fact we do need purification. This is the logic of Purgatory (which I copy from Ratzinger’s “Eschatology:”  “Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy. This insight would contradict the doctrine of grace only if penance were the antithesis of grace and not its form, the gift of a gracious possibility…the root of the Christian doctrine of Purgatory is the Christological grace of penance. Purgatory follows by an inner necessity from the idea of penance, the idea of the constant readings for reform which marks the forgiven sinner.[1]

Suffrages: “One vital question still remains…. How can a third party enter into that most highly personal process of encounter with Christ, where the ‘I’ is transformed in the flame of his closeness? Is not this an event which so concerns the individual that all replacement or substitution must be ruled out? Is not the pious tradition of ‘helping the holy souls’ based on treating these souls after the fashion of ‘having’ – whereas our reflections so far have surely led to the conclusion that that heart of the matter if ‘being,’ for which there can be no substitute? Yet the being of man is not, in fact, that of a closed monad. It is related to others by love or hate, and, in these ways, has its colonies within them. My own being is present in others as guilt or as grace. We are not just ourselves, or, more correctly, we are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others. Whether others curse us of bless us, forgive us and turn our guilt into love – this is part of our own destiny….

So, “self-substituting love is a central Christian reality, and the doctrine of Purgatory states that for such love the limit of death does not exist. The possibility of helping and giving does not cease to exist on the death of the Christian. Rather does it stretch out to encompass the entire communion of saints, on both sides of death’s portals. The capacity and the duty, to love beyond the grave might even be called th true primordial datum in this whole area of tradition – as II Maccabees 12, 42-45 first makes clear.[2]  Furthermore, this original ‘given’ has never been in dispute as between East and   West. It was the Reformation which called it into question, and that in the face of what were in part objectionable and deformed practices. Here, then, is where the ecumenical way ahead in this matter lies, at least as between Orthodox and Catholic. What is primary is the praxis of being able to pray, and being called upon to pray. The objective correlate  of this praxis in the world to come need not, in some reunification of the churches, be determined of necessity in a strictly unitary fashion, even though the content and rationales of the Western teaching is anchored, as we have shown, in ancient tradition and central motifs of faith.”[3]

[1] J. Ratzinger, Eschatology, CUA (1988 ) 231-232.

[2] Ii Maccabees, 12, 38: On the next day, as by that time it had cbecome necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchers of their fathers. Than under the tunic of every one the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen, so they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden. And they turned to prayer begging that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen, He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection…. Therefore he made atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from their sin.”

[3] Ibid. 233.

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