Tuesday, October 24, 2006



Posted on the 3rd Day of the 29th Week of Ordinary Time - 2006 AD - (Year B)

Some time ago I began experiencing back pain, it's nearly gone now. I am very busy at work and at home, so I went to buy painkillers. In fact, to be honest, I did some research on Google to start with, I was determined to get hold of the strongest painkillers possible available without a prescription. I was determined not to let the back pain take me out of action this time, like it has on a couple of occasions in the past. I got the painkillers and needless to say, the back pain faded to a mild sensation. I got on with my life.

And then the back pain grew less and less intense, but not wanting to leave anything to chance, I took a couple of the painkillers each morning just to make sure I wasn't caught out. And then, somehow, I kind of carried on taking the painkillers, for a few days longer than I should have. There was something else I was trying to avoid along with the back pain, although I was only dimly aware of it. Whenever I didn't take the painkillers, I quickly discovered, I got a headache. I take a tablet, the headache disappears. And then I realise that I really don't need the painkillers anymore, the back pain, though still nagging and threatening a bit, has really gone away. But then I found that I had an upset stomach to go along with the headache, a couple of painkillers and away it goes. Wait a minute! What's happening here? Could I be in some way dependent on the damn things? Does this make me a...dare I say it...a 'drug addict'!!?? Well, I stop taking the tablets once and for all, and yes, there are one or two days of mild irritation, headaches, stomach upset, general discomfort. And then I realise, this is what it feels like to break a dependence, an attatchment. My body is cleansing itself from the offending substance which it had become attatched to in the medication. The sensation of this cleansing, of this breaking with a dependence, is uncomfortable, unpleasant, purgative.

It came to me then that in some way Purgatory is the mechanism by which our dependency is broken. Our dependence on sin, our attatchment to it. There is a real pain and suffering at the heart of the purgative act. It's not that we will have Purgatory somehow 'done to us', it is that, in the same way that my body cleanses and heals itself from an addiction, in effect carrying out its own mini purgatory, our souls undergo their purgative process as attatchments and dependencies are broken on a spiritual level. Sin, in all of its forms and guises, is the addictive substance which enters into the substance of the soul. Purgatory is the opening of the hand to let go, just as I, through a force of will, let go of a need to avoid pain by ceasing to take the medication I had bought, my body does the rest and although the interim is somewhat painful, the end result is necessary, natural and beneficial.

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