Eternal damnation is a JUST punishment for the offence of SIN. Instead, we are offered temporal suffering on Earth and in Purgatory. What a MERCIFUL medicine from God!
Recently I was prescribed some very strong medication that was supposed to help to relieve me of some of the symptoms of an underlying medical condition as I await the surgery to physically repair the underlying issue.
It was very strong medication. It was very difficult to take because there were many side-effects associated with this medication.
At first – when I was told that the surgery was close – I was happy to put up with the side-effects of the medication. After all, the underlying condition caused its own set of problems and I was desperate for a solution to make my life just a little bit more “liveable” so to speak and so it made sense to take this medication, even with the side effects because they were only a short-term problem. But then, the date for surgery was shifted backwards indefinitely – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and this changed everything!
For a start, the side effects grew in intensity over time and for that reason alone, it became more and more difficult to ignore them! And so, by the end of the first course of the medication, it felt as though I had gone in with one problem and was coming out with quite another.
And so, I stopped the medication and went back to my pre-medicated life.
And I have been reflecting on that ever since…
Because we are all very sick. Sin is the sickness of our immortal soul and mortal sin is its death! But we are very lucky that our Eternal Father has provided us with a medicine to treat this sickness. And we are lucky that we only need to take one course of that medication – or maybe two (if we must endure a time in Purgatory)…
Because the medicine for our salvation is suffering!
And how I try to run from it. How afraid I am of it. If only I were more like the Saints! Saint John Vianney said, “We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money. . . Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes, proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices!”
And this is why suffering is a gft – and Purgatory too – because if we do not suffer enough while on Earth to atone for our sins, we have another chance to merit Heaven in Purgatory!
And sanctification is so important to us. Saint John Vianney described it so much more beautifully than I ever could when he said, “Put a good bunch of grapes under the winepress, and a delicious juice will come out. Under the winepress of the cross, our soul produces a juice that feeds and strengthens us. When we haven't got any crosses, we are dry. If we carry them with resignation, what happiness, what sweetness we feel!”
When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and God encountered them afterwards, God gave Adam WORK and Eve PAIN.
“To the woman He said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children....’” (Genesis 3:16).
“To Adam He said, ‘…through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life…. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” (Genesis 3:17-19).
Long ago when I read those words, I thought that God was angry and punishing the Man and the Woman for their sin – I thought that pain and suffering and toil were a punishment. But how wrong I really was!
Now I read the same words differently… After all, eternal damnation is a JUST punishment for the offence of SIN and instead we are offered temporal suffering on Earth and in Purgatory as a MERCIFUL medicine.
Sadly, because sin is such a terrible disease of the soul that culminates in DEATH through mortal sin if we leave it untreated, the medicine for sin – suffering and sacrifice – has many serious side effects.
Lucky for us we only need to take this medicine for such a short time. And even luckier – we do not even have to bear this suffering alone. Our Merciful God came to earth and died on the Cross to bear this suffering Himself – He took our medicine FOR US!
This is why Saint John Vianney said, “The sign of the Cross is the most terrible weapon against the devil. Thus the Church wishes not only that we have it continually in front of our minds to recall to us just what our souls are worth and what they cost Jesus Christ, but also that we should make it at every juncture ourselves: when we go to bed, when we awaken during the night, when we get up, when we begin any action, and, above all, when we are tempted.”
Because the medicine that Christ did NOT need to take was the Cross…
And He took it – with all its associated side-effects, even though He did not need to take it.
My Beloved took my medicine for love of me – He took yours for you too!
And so it is, with the sign of the Cross, that I dare to pray…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.