Meri Lee Testa wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a cradle Catholic. For a long time I have had issues with the Catholic belief on Purgatory;
I do not believe in it. I believe that our sins are washed clean by the blood of Jesus: past, present, and future.

  • To believe in Purgatory, is to believe that Jesus's death on the Cross was not enough.
    I believe Purgatory was invented by priests in the middle ages, and that there is no
    Biblical basis for it.

  • I have issues with praying to the Virgin Mary. I go straight to Jesus, I do not believe in praying to Mary to get to Jesus.

  • I also struggle with the Catholic philosophy that Mary had no other children after Jesus. The Bible states that she did and, No, they were not his cousins.

  • I also don't believe that she is Co-mediator with Jesus. Scripture states:

      He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)

    Yes, you can admire her etc, but she is not divine.

Meri Lee

  { I'm a cradle Catholic who has had issues with several Catholic teachings. }

Mary Ann replied:

Meri Lee,

It sounds like you have been listening to some non-Catholics with erroneous ideas about what the Church teaches. All our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ, and the Cross is enough to save us. You are right about that. However, even when our sins are completely forgiven, we are not perfect. We still have imperfections, weaknesses and attachments to sin and we remain prone to sin. If that were not true, then once a person accepted Christ or were baptized, he or she would never sin again, and we know that is not true! Purgatory is not about forgiveness! It is about
re-conditioning, perfecting, purifying. In a way, you could say that it is the purifying effect that God's love has on us, cleaning our vision and our hearts so that we can see Him as He is and love Him perfectly. So you have a misunderstanding about Purgatory; it is not what you think.

You also misunderstand praying to Mary. We do not have to go to Mary to get to Jesus, as you put it. You do not have to pray to Mary but Jesus did tell the perfect disciple to take her for his mother, (John 19:23-27) so we should do that. We should also follow his example in taking her into our home. Why? Jesus gave her to us as a spiritual mother.

Nowhere does the Bible say that Mary had other children. And never in history, with people knowing the languages of Scripture far better than we do, has any Christian group ever said that she did, until the time of the Reformation. An understanding of Aramaic and Greek would help you on that point.

Mary is not co-mediator as the English words imply. However, like you, she helps Jesus in His work of salvation. "Co" in English means "equal", but in Latin it means "with." She works with God, as you do, but she does it in a very special way. She consented for the Incarnation to happen. She was the source of the human body that was the means of our redemption, by His sacrificial will carried out on the Cross. She also consented to His death (she was the only one other than Jesus with the ability to say "Yes" or "No" to this Sacrifice, because Jesus belonged to her — he was her Son. Jesus did the will of the Father, and so did Mary, in offering Him in union with His own offering.

Regardless of what you think about Mary's role and your relationship to her, I would advise you not to disdain her, put her down or insult her. She is, after all, the Mother of the Lord and she accompanied the early Church and taught the apostles and evangelists.

  • Where do you think the stories of his childhood came from?

You would not want to displease the Lord by insulting or ignoring His Mother. He loves her. He fulfilled all the Law, and the Law commanded Him to honor His mother and father. We should imitate Jesus in all things.

Mary Ann

Meri Lee replied:

Mary Ann —

Thank you for answering my questions.

You have given me more food for thought especially on the issues of the Virgin Mary.

Yes, I do have a friend who is a Baptist; she teaches a Bible study at her church. She was the one that told me that Mary had other children after Jesus.   She said it is stated in the Bible. She has checked out the translations, from the Greek etc., and it still states that Jesus did, in fact, have true brothers and sisters.

As far as Purgatory is concerned, I am still somewhat dubious on it. I understand what you are saying about the fact that we have weaknesses, and I guess Purgatory would cleanse us and make us more perfect, but I still have issues with its actual existence.

Thank you and blessings.

Meri Lee T.

Mary Ann replied:

Meri Lee —

Well, Purgatory is primarily a state of being, a transitional state. Some call it the vestibule or anteroom of Heaven.

C.S. Lewis conceived of it as the effect that entering Heaven has on the soul, the purifying effect of God's love.

Perhaps that helps.

Mary Ann

Meri Lee replied:

Yes, Mary Ann, that does help.

I think getting into discussions with friends about differences in beliefs within Christianity can get dicey. Don't they say, you should never discuss politics, religion or child rearing issues with others. My Baptist friend is very adamant about the fact that Mary did have more children.

I value my friendship with this lady and don't want to cause a rift or an uncomfortable feeling between us. As the Baptists say, she found Jesus about five years ago. Before that was not a Christian, and the fact that she studies her Bible and leads a Bible study, makes her feel that she is undeniably correct.

Thank you again.

Meri Lee T

Mary Ann replied:

Meri Lee —

You are right to go gently, but that does not mean we don't say the truth gently at least once.

You can enter "Jesus' brothers" into the search engine of AskACatholic.com and come up with really good answers and resources on that question.

And you are most welcome.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Meri Lee —

Thanks for the question.

We have answered a lot of your questions in our knowledge base so you may want to take
a few minutes to search for a topic here.

On Purgatory, here is a posting that give you the Protestant argument, with our reply as the counter argument:

Purgatory is more of a process than a place; I call it the Holy Hospital of Heaven.   Purgatory has nothing to do with ones salvation; if one is in Purgatory, one is saved by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus.  Purgatory has to do with personal holiness. (Read my comments at the end of the above posting.)

If you want to truly understand the Catholic teachings and how to rebut them I would get a copy of:

Share it with your Baptist friend too.

I hope you find it helpful.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Meri Lee —

To understand Purgatory, we have to first understand the basic differences between what Protestants and Catholics believe about salvation.

Protestants believe that salvation is a simple legal declaration. God declares us righteous on the basis of:

  • our faith in Christ, and
  • His atoning Sacrifice.

But they don't believe that God actually makes us righteous. Luther put it this way:

"We are nothing but a pile of dung, that God covers with snow."

The Catholic Church rejects this understanding because it is incomplete. God does indeed declare us righteous but in doing so, He makes us righteous and gives us the power to overcome sin.
Our sin nature or concupiscence remains. Although we are made righteous, we still desire to sin. The more we sin, the more we injure our soul and increase that desire. Whereas, the more we overcome sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, as Paul tells us to do in Romans 8, the more we are transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. This, of course, is all a work of grace.
We cooperate with grace but it all starts with God and ends with God. We simply yield and respond to the grace and power to become the sons of God as it says in the first chapter of John.

Now that process, doesn't happen over night. For most of us, it takes more than a life time.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 3:15 St. Paul hints at the fact that we will be tried by fire. All that is good will remain and that which is not will be burnt away. We ourselves will be saved but will suffer loss.

14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1Corinthians 3:14-15)

Now this is a metaphor. Ultimately, we know that all Purgatory is, is God's love, burning away any selfishness, self love, or love of sin that may remain in us at the time of our physical death.

Throughout the centuries there have been different paradigms, different metaphors and images used to explain Purgatory. Some have been, unfortunately, a lot less helpful than others. I like to call Purgatory a Holy Ghost Hospital. It's a place we go to get healed.

Yes, we feel pain but it's healing pain. It's not God extracting justice on us. Quite the contrary,
it's God pouring His love out on us and that's going to burn away anything that is unholy.

That is bound to hurt, much like alcohol hurts when you disinfect a wound.

John

Eric replied:

Meri Lee —

The fact that Purgatory was not an invention of the Middle Ages is demonstrated by its appearance in a Jewish book written a few centuries before Christ (2 Maccabees 12:39-46) and also a Jewish book written in the first century (Josephus' discourse on Hades). It also appears in early Christian literature; in the Martyrdom of Ss. Perpetua and Felicity. (second century) St. Perpetua has a vision of her brother suffering in Purgatory. After fervent prayer on her part, she sees another vision, this time of him in Heaven.

The idea that our sins are forgiven past, present, and future is simply unbiblical. Jesus said we are forgiven to the extent we forgive others. If we do not forgive, neither will our heavenly Father forgive (See the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:35, and Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:12). 1 John 1:9 also says that we must confess our sins to be forgiven. I challenge you to find a verse that says that our sins are unconditionally forgiven "past, present, and future." While it is true that Jesus's redemption covers all sins past, present, and future, it remains for us to repent and seek forgiveness for that redemption to be applied to our sins.

As for Mary having other children, I'd refer you to this article:

and our other answers on Mary.  Search for:

Basically, at least some of those identified in Scripture as the "brothers of the Lord" (James and Joses) were identified elsewhere as children of another Mary (the wife of Clopas). Jews had very close-knit families; they also had few words for relatives (for example, no words for cousin or uncle) and so often they used "brother" to refer to relatives outside the nuclear family. We can see this in Genesis (see the article).

It is inconceivable that another person was born by Mary, who by the Holy Spirit and Jesus's birth, was consecrated to God. Consecrated objects can only be used for one purpose.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant (Revelation 11:19-12:2,50); just as the Ark carried the
Word of God (the Ten Commandments) and the Bread of Life (the manna), Mary carried in her womb the Word of God (the Son) and the Bread of Life. Also compare 2 Samuel 6:9-11 and Luke 1:43,56. Anyone who so much as touched the Ark of the Covenant perished. (1 Chronicles 13:10) Also, in the Jewish mind, once a woman had union with someone, he would be defiling her if he had relations with her. Thus Joseph, after Mary was consecrated by the Holy Spirit by conceiving and bearing Jesus, would not have touched her.

Mary is not divine in the sense of being a goddess, that is true. We agree that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Mary's role is to say to us, exactly what she said to the head steward at the Wedding of Cana — do whatever he tells you to do. Her role (as our role is) is to lead us to Christ so that through Him we may be saved. As she brought Him to us on the physical plane, so she brings us to him on the spiritual plane.

By the way, Mary doesn't do anything that all other Christians don't do. She simply does it in the most perfect way. She is the example for all Christians. "Be it done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5) Her role in praying for us.

All of these things are things Christians should be saying and doing.

Eric

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