In Kaddish and Purgatory, I compared Pope John XXIII with Ben Zakkai, the founder of modern Judaism.
Here is the diary entry of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (his original name) of 22 Sept 1898, when he was 18 years old and studying at the Seminary of Bergamo.
“This evening, when I thought about it seriously, the tears came to my eyes. (John was anxious about the health of a fellow seminarian that was very ill). I imagined myself on that sick bed and I wondered how it would go with me if I were to be judged in this very moment. I should deserve to go to hell, but I hope I shall not be sent there. In any case I am sure I ought to be sent to purgatory. Yet the mere thought of purgatory makes me shudder. What then will become of me? Oh poor me, how wretched I am!”
Here is Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, founder of rabbinic Judaism’s view:
” I’m about to meet Ha Shem, God , Blessed be his name, and before me there are two roads, one leading to Paradise and one leading to Gehenna; one leading to Heaven and one leading to Hell, and I do not know to what road Ha Shem will sentence me” (Rabbi ben Zakkai). This view is also the Muslim view.
Jews and Roman Catholics believe that their good deeds can earn merit for themselves and for the departed soul, which will shorten the time spent in purgatory (the Roman Catholic view) or the time spent in Gehenna or at a lower level of heaven (the pious Jewish view). They can, however never be sure, because they feel that it would be pride to presume on God’s mercy. Unblessed assurance. How different is the Christian biblical view!
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him” (Romans 5:7); “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew (foreloved) he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified ” (Romans 8:28-30).