Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Publican and Purgatory

Since most of us are very familiar with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9ff), which is the Gospel Lesson for this past 11th Sunday after Trinity, it is easy to miss how radical it was . . . and is.

Jesus emphatic statement that the publican “went down to his house justified” after a simple but heartfelt confession of his faith and of his own sin (“God be merciful to me a sinner.”) went very much against the grain of Jewish culture which emphasized the works of the law and did not like tax collectors.

And, as Fr. Robert Hart points out, Jesus’ statement goes against the grain of prominent church errors through the centuries as well. The church has often either diminished the power of the cross of Christ to forgive sin or has diminished the evil of sin itself. But Jesus does not give room for that.

Jesus’ radical statement particularly does not give room for Purgatory. The Publican did not go home in hope that he can somehow work off his sin after death. No, he “went down to his house justified.”

The doctrine of Purgatory has compassionate origins and was a comforting doctrine, at least before the likes of Johann Tetzel got ahold of it. But the doctrine grew out of a lack of comprehension of the finished work and willingness of Christ to forgive all who come to Him.

But more on that in due time.

No comments: