Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Rich Man was in Purgatory, not Hell

Purgatory: Holy Fire, by Scott Hahn

'It may not be amiss likewise to find signs of this moral amelioration in the rich man in Hades who appeals to Abraham on behalf of his five brothers still on earth, in Luke 16. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man? The rich man is in fire, but he calls out, "Father Abraham," and Abraham responds, "My son, or my child." Well all that man had done was to feast sumptuously. He didn't go around beating Lazarus and other poor people. He just ate sumptuously. He neglected the poor. Not a mortal sin in and of itself, to be sure. And he says, "Father Abraham, just let Lazarus know. Have mercy on me." He didn't say, "This is unfair. I shouldn't be in hell." He says, "Have mercy on me. Just get Lazarus to dip his little finger tip in water and put it on the tip of my tongue. I don't deserve it, but it's mercy."

Is that a soul in hell filled with the hatred of God? St. Teresa says, "There is no love in hell." And yet, this man pleads, not on his own behalf, but he says, "Please send Lazarus back to my five brothers so that they will believe in time." Abraham says, "Even if a man came back from the dead, it wouldn't be enough. They've got Moses, the law and the prophets. That's enough." But ironically, who did Jesus raise from the dead? A man named Lazarus. And was it enough for the Jews to believe in Jesus then? No. They not only wanted to kill Jesus, they even sought to kill Lazarus because so many people were still believing in Jesus because of him.

But look at Luke 16 and realize that this man is there for neglecting the poor. He is in fire, recognizing Abraham as his father. Abraham recognizing him as my child. This man pleading for mercy in the form of a drop of water and then pleading on behalf of his brothers who were still on earth. Do souls intercede with God for mercy? Hardly. And yet look at what the story assumes. Look at what Jesus doesn't even feel it necessary to argue.'

I agree with Scott Hahn. There are definite reasons to doubt that the Rich Man was one of the damned. This passage troubled me as a Protestant and I toyed at times with the idea that he might have been in some other kind of intermediate state between heaven and hell. The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory explains this scenario quite well.

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