Part 5 – final installment:
“Maybe we can get a clue from one of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, which says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). But the fact is that none of us is pure in heart when we leave this earth. Jesus Himself said that none are good but God alone (Luke l8:|0). After this life we all will need cleaning up, some perhaps a great deal, before we are ready to return to God. The Roman Catholic Church therefore came up with the ingenious idea of Purgatory as a place where we get cleaned up and purged of all that is not pure. The only trouble with Rome’s Purgatory is that it became too bureaucratized to be believable. It also became a place of punishment, which doesn’t jibe well with a loving God. Punishment doesn’t sound like a good way to make us pure! Hence the ancient belief that we will need to live again and again until our souls are pure. I think I’ve been blessed maybe only a few times to have known almost pure souls in this life.
So why don’t we ever hear from the Church on this subject of preexistence and reincarnation? Because the Church doesn’t know what to do with the idea – other than to condemn it, which is what the Roman Catholic Church did about fifteen centuries ago. (I might add that the action of the council where it was condemned has been held in question ever since.) Condemning an idea or belief never stopped the people from believing it, and it’s also an ineffective way to deal with truth. Over the years I have discovered that a great many people do believe in some version of preexistence or reincarnation, and such belief need not conflict with faith in the Resurrection. Resurrection to new life could indeed mean a new life here on earth, a chance to do it over again, perhaps better next time the point being that our souls are being made more whole and pure with each life. That may be hard for us to believe with some of the wicked lives we see in every age, but we can be sure the sandpaper of life is working on them too; they just may need a lot more sanding than the rest of us.
Whatever the destination, the Christian Faith bids us believe in the eternal nature of the soul. God has a glorious future in store for us one way or the other. We sang the words only last Sunday: “Breath on me, breath of God, so I shall never die; but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity” (Hymn 508).
Peace and blessings,