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10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

One of the things that greatly saddened Martin Luther was the fact that he found many of the priests to be uneducated in the Scripture and even in Canon Law. In fact most could not read the Scripture in the original languages and often only knew enough Latin to recite the liturgy. The teachings on purgatory were born mostly out of uneducated speculation on what the afterlife might be.

By the time of Martin Luther and the sale of indulgences the accepted teachings on purgatory had evolved from the Old Testament teaching of “Sheol” as the grave and a temporary dwelling place until the judgement. In the middle ages people would speculate on what was to happen as the body and soul waited for the final judgement. To those who thought about such things it seemed logical that the penance that was done in order to receive forgiveness while on earth would still need to be done for those sins that happened close to death that had not been forgiven. Therefore the teaching that purgatory was a place of punishment for sins where a person remained until all sins of this life had been fully paid for, at which time entrance into heaven was possible. The sale of indulgences would then be available for the living to buy their loved ones out of purgatory. This whole teaching Luther found uneducated and hurtful.

Yet the idea that sins need to be “paid for” with good works remains today. Even well-meaning Christians will talk about those who, “deserve to be forgiven and those who do not deserve to be forgiven.” This determination is based on who has been “good” and who has been “bad”.

Prayer

Lord God, I praise Your name and glorify You above all things. Please visit me with the assurance of forgiveness that I may dwell in the joy of Your loving care. Help me to learn that my forgiveness is not measured by my good works, but by Your Son’s death and resurrection. In the name of Jesus, Amen.