Do you remember when you got your very first credit card? For me it was during freshmen year at UT Austin. There were tables lined up offering free tee shirt if you signed up for a card, so I got one. It was quite exciting spending money on the card thinking that I'll have enough money to pay for it at the end of the month. Then when the monthly bill comes I say to myself, "I can't believe I spent this much!" For the first few times, my parents paid for it. But after that, I decided that I can't mooch off of my parents, so I decided to put the card somewhere I cannot reach so easily.
I want to use the credit card bill as an anology to understand purgatory. Sometimes we think that what we do to others have very little impact in the end--the hurtful words we say, telling lies here and there, taking occasional glances at inappropriate stuff on computer, and not so charitable ways we treat each other. Yet at the end of our life, we get to see how large the 'credit card bill' comes out to be. For most of us, before we die, we will have gone to confession and received forgiveness from God for all our sins. God is the one who has the 'deep pockets' of His Mercy, to pay the debt we cannot pay. So in a sense, God has already paid for the large 'credit card debt' that we owe. Yet just like I felt guilty about each time that I carelessly used my credit card, Jesus is going to give us an opportunity to look at each time that we carelessly hurt others and let Jesus down. This opportunity happens right after we die. Some calls this the Hour of Truth or the Judgment Hour. That sounds foreboding doesn't it. We often think the our Judgment Hour to be what happened to the woman caught in adultery in our gospel today. We imagine that there will be lots of people with stones in their hands, ready to accuse us for each of our sins and to throw the stones at us. But what really happens in the gospel? Doesn't Jesus say to them, "“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And no one is left to accuse. In the end, only Jesus is left with the woman, and he says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?...Neither do I condemn you.”
Many who have experienced near-death recall that Jesus showed them a movie of their life. While watching this movie, the soul sees the movie not from their perspective, not from their usual self-deception or self-delusion, and not from the devil's temptations, but from God's perspective. Just like what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, we do not feel condemned by God. Rather we see each moment of our lives from His Truth--His compassion, mercy, and love. As we watch each moment of our lives, we will know how God wanted us to serve Him at that moment. And we will know whether we have served Him or we have not served Him. We will see how each of our sin hurt the other person. Although this debt has been forgiven, we will still say to ourselves, "I cannot believe that I did that! I need to in someway pay back to that person what I've done. Lord you have forgiven all my debts, but I still need to spend some time in Purgatory making up for what I did wrong to that person." Hence, Purgatory is really a place where we will take time in order to come to terms with our mistakes and proceed in self-acceptance. But instead of doing this in Purgatory, we can do this here on earth. We can come to terms with our mistakes by making reparation, whether it be through physical and spiritual sacrifice or making amends to restore broken relationships. It's like me being shocked at the end of the month credit card bill and making prudent changes to my spending behavior so that I will not have to have my mom and dad bail me out of my debt again.