There's something that has been puzzling me and I would love to hear how the church would explain the following: you can read numerous stories of after death experiences from all types of people (faith, agnostics, atheists...) having similar experiences: a bright light, feeling of extreme peace, seeing loved ones who had gone before them... Everyone mentions how they didn't want to come back, but was told it wasn't their time. Where does purgatory fit into this? Purgatory is described as a burning, purifying, suffering place to be. Can all these people be going straight to heaven? I hope you can address this one day. Thanks! Keep up the great work!
The experiences I've read about are similar, but not alike. Some people claim to have met Jesus, for example.
And please remember that not one of these people died. So there was no opportunity to go to Purgatory. The other thing that these stories all have in common is that they all say they wanted to stay, but were told they couldn't stay.
I'll tell you my very favorite story. I heard it on the car radio one evening during a long drive. There was a lady who had died several times and been "brought back". She was a "frequent flyer" due to some rare illness she had. She had been to the bright light, the peaceful place and shaken hands with Grandma more than once.
But she didn't always go there. On some occasions she went the other way. On one such journey she found herself on a high catwalk over a vast desert. In the desert, there were countless, endless people, digging pointless holes in the sand that filled in over and over again.
She she said that she was made aware that she was only being shown this and would not be staying. But she was also made aware...and this is that part that stuck with me...that any of these people could leave at any time. They just didn't.
Whatever that means about the afterlife or Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, what truly struck me about it was that this is so often how we live our lives. We so often create our own misery. We could leave. But we just don't.
I'm not talking about packing up the kids and taking them to a shelter. Or checking into rehab or telling the boss what he can do with his job, although certainly all of these things apply.
I'm really talking about how we are aware that if we changed our thinking, had a different attitude, dropped what we were doing to become more compassionate, more understanding, more loving, not only would our lives improve, so would the lives of everyone around us.
But we just don't.
You will have to change your thinking when you're in Purgatory, however.
I think of Purgatory the way I think of obese people who have to get their stomachs stapled. They don't lose weight because they have their stomachs stapled. They lose weight because after they have their stomachs stapled they have to eat the way they should have been eating in the first place. They just didn't. Clearly they can, because once they have to, they do.
I'm not pointing fingers. I fully expect to be in Purgatory, because try as I might to stay on a sin free diet, I just don't.
So don't go counting our Purgatory because people who didn't die, didn't go there. Some people did.