September 22, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

As we reflected last week, Sacramentals help us in our journey with God. This week we shall look at another facet of Catholic life that helps us in our journey. Let’s briefly look at the notion of Indulgences.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” It is closely connected with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Examples would be visiting the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes or more; pray a public rosary; read and meditate on scripture for 30 minutes; pray the Stations of the Cross. We “exchange” bad actions with good ones.

Remember, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a penitent person asks for forgiveness. Before the Absolution is given, a penance is asked of the person. It may be something simple or something complex. Only when the Penance is completed do we receive the fullness of the Lord’s Forgiveness. Remember Sin always has consequences, divine and temporal (things here on earth). God takes away sin, but we still have responsibilities regarding our actions. Just because we say that we are sorry doesn’t relieve us of the consequences of sin.

For example: A neighborhood kid hits a baseball through a neighbor’s window. He goes to his neighbor and says “I’m sorry” and the neighbor says “I forgive you.” But the window is still broken. And it still needs to be fixed. The broken window is the temporal consequence of the action.

If used correctly, Indulgences help us to truly become closer to God. Proverbs 16:6 states: By loving kindness and faithfulness, iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil. They relieve any temporal consequences incurred because of sin. So, with the above example, the boy is told by his parents that he doesn’t have to pay; they will. The burden is relieved.

We have to strive to live a life with God at the center. When we do strive, God takes those things into ac-count. When our hearts are focused on love and the avoidance of sin, that is what God sees. Instead of focusing inward (sin), we focus outward (love of God and neighbor). If properly disposed, our actions state that we are “trying” to be the best person we can be. Indulgences give us the slack that we are looking for. They re-place the “hatred” from sin with the “love” from God.
Please remember that Indulgences are for sins already incurred. One cannot build up Indulgences for future sins. Like last week’s reflection, they are not “Holy Magic.” The reception of an Indulgence always revolves around one’s disposition. Is the person truly repentant? Does he/she truly want to make up for one’s sins?

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