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MyNamesNotSally wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm a girl in the age range of 10-19. I was wondering about Heaven.

  • I would like to know what it takes to get to Heaven?
  • What is Purgatory exactly?
  • What is Heaven like and how bad of a person you have to be to go to Hell?

I know God is forgiving, but I see some people in the news and can't imagine them in the same place as people who spend every waking minute of the day praying.

I'm not perfect, not by a long shot. I try to be good to people and really love God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the others, if you get my point.

I'm good to my friends, but as you can imagine, a girl around my age has a rough time being mean to mean girls.

  • What can I do to be sure I get to Heaven?

NotSally

  { Can you explain Heaven and Purgatory and how bad do I have to be to go to Hell? }

Eric replied:

Hi NotSally,

We get to Heaven by repenting of our sins (Acts 26:20), having faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15,
1 John 4:15), and persevering to the end in love (James 1:12, 1 John 3:14). We have to believe the Gospel, that is chiefly that "by his death [Christ] trampled upon death giving life to those who were in the tombs" (us!).

In other words, Christ died on the Cross and was raised from the dead in order to conquer death and give us life so that we could live forever in glory. We also have to follow Jesus in his teachings and his example. And we have to know Jesus — not just know about Him, as if he were merely a lawgiver, but know him as a person, as a friend. We can always rely on Jesus to hear our prayers and our most intimate thoughts. The righteous person is a friend of God and always trusts in him to make things work out.

In Heaven we see Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). By faith, we become, even on earth, partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), that is, we become like God, or we become by grace, what Christ is by nature. As a poker becomes red hot in a fire, taking on the nature of fire while remaining distinct from the fire, so we take on the nature of God. This condition is known as beatitude, or the state of being blessed. We know that in Heaven "every tear shall be wiped away" (Revelation 21:4) and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. After Christ comes again, our bodies will be resurrected and they will be glorified, just like Christ's body was glorified after his Resurrection. But this time, they will be perfect. Other than that, we don't know much about Heaven.

Purgatory is a place where the love of God so burns in us that we experience a certain kind of suffering because the ungodly things that remain in our souls prevent us from achieving full union with Christ. Until those impurities are worked out, we may experience a measure of pain, always tempered by the pleasure of knowing we are on the path to Heaven and driven by our ardor for Christ. You can see what purgatory is like in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

  • You say you are good to your friends. To be honest, everyone is good to their friends — what profit is there in that?

You need to be good to:

  • your enemies
  • the poor
  • the marginalized, and
  • to those you disdain.

This is true Christian love.

Ask Jesus to give you the grace to love in this way. With respect to dealing with mean girls,
I found the following proverb helpful when I was your age:

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you." (Proverbs 25:21-22)

There is no way to be absolutely certain you'll get to Heaven, but you can get fairly close. (We call this moral certainty.) Read the Bible so you know what the Gospel is and how you should behave. To help you understand the Bible and put it in context, you should also read the Catholic Youth Catechism (YOUCAT). Pray daily — you don't have to start off big, but what's important is that you make a habit of it. For example, every day say a brief prayer dedicating your life to following Christ and to obeying the Gospel.

Consecrate the whole day to God. We call this a morning offering. Pray for the grace to love with authentic love. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Talk to Jesus about your day throughout the day; lift up all your struggles to him in daughterly trust. Say the Our Father three times a day. Open meals with grace. In the evening, reflect on the day, what sins you've committed, and repent of them in prayer. If you're Catholic, bring those sins to the healing sacrament of Confession (John 20:21-23, 1 John 1:9). When we open our hearts to the priest and repent of and confess all our sins to him, we have the closest thing we can get to assurance of our salvation.

Of course, because Christ's death on the Cross and His Resurrection effected our redemption, we want to receive the fruits of that Redemption in his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. (John 6:26-27, 31-58) Our holy Mother the Church asks us to attend Mass weekly and on Holy Days anyway, so you'll want to be sure to attend Mass regularly. If you're not Catholic, going to church is still a good thing.

I'll pray for you that you'll be able to walk in the light! I hope this all helps.

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi NotSally,

I just wanted to share a good way of looking at Purgatory in addition to Eric's excellent answer.

Many think Purgatory is a third place along with Heaven and Hell. Others think of Purgatory as a second chance. These are both misunderstandings of Purgatory.

It's best to think of Purgatory as the Holy Hospital of Heaven.

Sin injures our soul and it can be hard to keep sin out of our lives while on earth.

This is why Eric's advice in the last two paragraphs of his answer is very good.

Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your live.

When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcohol disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot! but it's a good hurt, it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.

Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy. To achieve this we have to burn off any remaining self inflicted spiritual wounds from our pilgrimage on earth.

Instead of the good physical hurt that the alcohol disinfectant gave us to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy pain and suffering which purifies our soul and prepares us to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.

The only difference between Heaven and Purgatory is:

  • the forgiveness of any remaining venal sins, and
  • the purification of our souls of any remaining impurities

Souls in Purgatory are saved completely by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, Our Blessed Lord.

Someone who dies in a state of pure holiness would have no need of Purgatory.

I hope this helps,

Mike

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