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Scripture Basis for the Dogma of Purgatory

Fr. Samuel Waters The Daily Knight |Sermon II of III on Purgatory

Scripture Basis for the Dogma of Purgatory

The materials I used for this sermon are coming from two sources. The first and primary source continues to be from the book; “The Biblical Basis for Purgatory” by John Salza. The secondary source is the book: “On Purgatory, the Members of the Church Suffering” by St. Robert Bellarmine (Doctor of the Church and Cardinal).


Most of the Dogmas (Dogma is a formally defined Doctrine) of Christianity are found implicitly in Sacred Scripture. This is because God has revealed His Word in Sacred Scripture & Sacred Tradition, not in Sacred Scripture alone.


An example would be the Dogma of the Blessed Trinity. No Protestant is able to point to the verse or verses that teaches about Three Divine Persons in one God or the Doctrines concerning the person of Christ. They are not explicit in Sacred Scripture. It took the Catholic Church centuries to define these Dogmas as She evaluated both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This means that the Sacred Scriptures are materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient to the Doctrines of the Faith.


“Material Sufficiency” means that the Sacred Scriptures contain all the materials necessary to give us true doctrine. Further explaining, the Sacred Scriptures contain all the required “bricks” for building the Dogmatic Structure. However, sources outside of the Sacred Scriptures, namely Sacred (Apostolic) Tradition and the Church are often necessary to give form to the true meaning of the Dogma.


In reading some of St. Albert the Great’s writings, he mentioned that the reason that Protestants do not have prayer books, catechisms, and creeds is because they do not have any structure of tradition to pull the information out of Sacred Scriptures to assemble it in such a way to create prayer books, catechisms and creeds. You could make this analogy: Tradition, you could say, is the “mortar” that connects the “bricks” of Sacred Scripture and the Church is the “Master Builder” who puts it all together.


The concept of Material Sufficiency of Sacred Scripture is to be distinguished from the Protestant view of Sacred Scriptures’ Formal Sufficiency. Formal Sufficiency means that all materials in Sacred Scripture are in a “ready to use” form. To go back to our analogy, The structure of the “bricks” and “mortar” have already been put together in the Sacred Scriptures. The theory that doctrines in Sacred Scripture are presented in such a clear and understandable way; and that neither Sacred Tradition nor the Church are necessary to understand their true meaning is not true. Both history and the existence of over 40,000 different Protestant Denominations undercuts such a theory. Protestants are inconsistent in the way they apply their belief in Formal Sufficiency.


There is more Scriptural evidence for the Dogma of Purgatory than there is for the Dogmas of the Trinity or those concerning the Person of Jesus Christ.


The Catholic Church’s principal method of interpreting Sacred Scripture is based on the Literal Sense of the text. This is because God means what He says and is not trying to deceive us. The only time to depart from the literal meaning is when it is untenable or it necessarily requires it. This is why many passages explicitly reveal fundamental Catholic Doctrines. The Early Church Fathers interpreted Sacred Scriptures literally also. The Catholic Church teaches that we are not to depart from the interpretation of the Fathers of the Church on matters of the Faith when they are unanimous.


The Church Fathers (The Church Fathers are part of Sacred Tradition) are unanimous in their belief in Purgatory.


The Old Testament passage that I will use to support the scriptural material sufficiency comes from the Book of Tobias, 4:18. It says, “Layout your bread and wine upon the burial of a just man and do not eat or drink of them with sinners.”


The understanding of this passage by the Church is: prepare dinner and call the faithful poor so that they after they have received alms, might pray for the soul of the dead man. This custom was born in the Church and still exists. The family of the dead person should have a dinner and also send food and drink to the poor and religious so that they also will pray for the dead.


St. John Chrysostom asks, “Why call the poor together and beg the priest to pray for the dead person?” Praying for the dead expresses that Purgatory is an actual place and it is important that the living members of the Catholic Church prays for them.


The New Testament passage that I will use is Matthew 5:25-26. It says, “Make Friends quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”


Jesus is using metaphors here. A metaphor is something that represents or denotes something else in reality. To understand this passage, we have to examine the metaphors. Jesus is talking about judgement. The context is either referring to the particular judgement (at the individual’s death) or the final judgement at the end of the world.


Jesus says “make friends with your accuser quickly. Jesus is referring to Satan. He is not telling us to befriend Satan, but to settle our score by renouncing all of his empty promises in this life. Many saints have said that both Satan and our Guardian Angel are present at our particular judgement. Satan tells Jesus our bad deeds and our Guardian Angel tells Jesus our good deeds. This is how our accuser (Satan) will hand us over to the judge (Jesus). The ability to make friends with Satan also means that we can grow in virtue and holiness and make satisfaction for our sins by overcoming the temptations.


Our journey to the court of God is our particular judgement. This is the battle with Satan during our life on earth. We should not want to wait until we get to court to renounce him. The time for contrition and mercy is in this life. Once we pass to the next life, we face only God’s strict justice. If we have not dealt sufficiently with the devil in this life we will have to do so in the “prison” of the next life. Jesus urges us to make friends quickly because the debt owed to God is easier to pay in this life than in the next. This is because the accuser (Satan) and the judge (Jesus) are in the spiritual world. The word “prison” is used in the spiritual context. The word “prison” is understood to be a temporary state after death which was neither heaven nor hell.


In the Book of Apocalypse Jesus tells the Christians at Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold Satan is about to throw some of you into “prison,” that you may be tested for 10 days. You will have tribulations (Apoc. 1:10-13). Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Jesus in Matthew 18: 34 regarding the parable of the wicked servant says, that the servant is delivered to the tortures until he pays the last debt.


This temporary state for souls in eternity supports the Dogma of the existence of Purgatory. There are numerous Scripture passages that supply material sufficiency for the Dogma of Purgatory.


To be continued in Sermon III....





In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.



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