In Our Lord’s story the king was so disappointed with the servant who would not forgive his fellow servant that he handed him over to the torturers, saying he would not be released until he paid back the huge debt the king had forgiven him. In this story Jesus tells us that after death we would be punished until we had made up for our sins. He seems to be talking about Purgatory.
In twenty-four years teaching middle school Religion I often had non-Catholic students whom their parents sent to us to avoid integration. One Seventh grade girl, the grandchild of a Protestant bishop, often expressed her discomfort at being an outsider with us. One day she blurted, “I don’t believe there is any place called Purgatory.”
I came back with, “I don’t either.”
We picture it as being a place, because that’s the way our human minds work. Too, our imaginations need to see things within their time frames. Catering to those human limitations, Dante incorporated our sound teachings into his fictitious “Purgatorio.”
Following his thirty-three cantos describing the Inferno, Dante turned to describing Purgatory, leading off with this:
Now I will sing of that second kingdom,
in which the human soul is cleansed of sin,
becoming worthy of ascent to heaven.
In thirty-three more cantos Dante went on to describe how our souls are purged of the seven capitol sins. We must admire him for doing all that was humanly possible towards bringing us to understanding what Jesus meant by telling us we would not be released until we have paid in full.