FORGIVENESS VERSUS EXPIATION: IN THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE (AND DEATH) IS THE ISSUE OF REPARATION
We listened recently to an inspired Catholic from Colombia (Marino Restrepo) who put it this way: if you want Heaven, you have to go into your closet and get rid of everything old, everything of no real use, everything you are clinging to. Until you do, there is purgatory. There is a “great closet” (one could also view it as a laundro-mat) in the sky.
Restrepo should know. He had an experience of seeing the levels of the afterlife when he was kidnapped by drug dealers. He had been in the fast-lane of the entertainment industry.
Do you need to “let go”? If so, of what? What do you cling to? What won’t you give up? That’s a Lenten reflection. What clutters your closet?
When we refuse to let go of something (a sinful inclination, a part of us that is impure, or just things), there must be expiation. People say, “I’m forgiven. I’ve been to Confession.” And that’s true: You’ve been absolved. But reparation — expiation — is a different matter. Expiation is letting go. Expiation is purification. Expiation is His Crucifixion.
Expiation is when we “repair” or replace the damage we have done, when we strip down to our real selves — to who God created; sometimes, that takes suffering.
Suffering is a mystery but have you noticed how when something “bad” and challenging and perhaps something painful physically enters your life it tends to suddenly put things in perspective? Have you noted how it makes you less concerned with the superfluous matters of life — those things cluttering your closet? How it makes “big” things small, or even useless? How it reduces you to simplicity?
When a disease strikes, it strikes the billionaire as well as the pauper.
Suddenly, no matter “who” you are (or think you are), one is reduced to reality.
And as a result, we move closer to Him. We begin to see ourselves more directly. A light is turned on in a dark, cluttered, musty closet. As darkness is removed, there is clarity. Clothes need to be discarded or repaired. What clutters your life?
Many metaphors here.
When we clear things out we can avoid suffering; otherwise, suffering is sent.
Suffering clarifies. It brings us back to the truth of clear vision. It strips away the false self, discards arrogance. It points out the uselessness of many material and emotional things. It puts us in our place: which means it brings us back to our missions. Why the pain? When something needs to be cleansed, we scrub on our hands and knees. We labor. A brush, a pad — steel wool — is taken to us.
But with cleanliness comes the simplicity of holiness. Suffered well, pain equals cleanliness equals holiness. A simple equation.
There is repair: Expiation repairs the soul, which has been damaged or tainted by sin or imperfection; it corrects a lack of a fulfilled purpose. It clears things out. And this is critical. We must accomplish our purposes and be “stripped” down to original purity before the gates of Heaven open.
Like a floor, we must be stripped of old wax. If we don’t get back to who we really are — who God made us to be (as opposed to what the world has caused us to be) — there is the need to purge in purgatory. Until we do, we are locked in that closet. Do you want to start eternity in a closet?
Better here on earth — expiation — than days or months or years (even centuries) in that closet or “laundromat” of the hereafter.