At his Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ says: “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not tax collectors do the same?... So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt. 5:46-48.
To enter into the fullness of heaven we have to be made perfect, purified from all sin and attachment to sin: the sins of commission and omission. Thus, we pray for our deceased loved ones who we hope died in the state of grace, that is, without any mortal sin on their soul, but who need to make reparation for their sins.
An example: if a person stole your car and crashed it, but then repented and said, “Sorry”, we need to forgive him, but we should also have him pay back what he can for the damages; we offer mercy and justice for the common good, and for the healing of his soul.
Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins which is mercy, and he rose from the dead to win the grace never to sin again. Yet, we still sin, and so out of justice we must die for our sins and then be purified from all sin and attachment to sin. When we remain in Christ by sanctifying grace, we can bear much fruit, as the Gospel of John 15:1-8 reminds us with regard to God trimming away the branches that do not bear fruit, so that we can bear more fruit.
Jesus said to the servant who did not show mercy to the other servant, “„Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?‟ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.” Mt. 18: 33-35. If we do not repair the damage our sins have caused by doing sufficient penance, we will have to “pay back the whole debt” in purgatory.
Thank God Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to show mercy even after our brothers and sisters have died in the Lord. When Jesus gave the power of the Keys to Kingdom of God to St. Peter, the rock on which Jesus would build his Church, the Lord Jesus said to him, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Cf. Mt. 16:16-19
As the Vicar of Christ on earth the Pope has the power to write the remedial guidelines to help those in Purgatory, where the fiery love of God, over time, is purifying people of their sins. Yet, we can reduce that time for them and for ourselves by seeking indulgences which helps us to become holier.
An “indulgence” is the remission of temporal punishment due to sin of which has already been forgiven, assuredly in the Sacrament of Confession. A “plenary indulgence” (complete remission) can be applied to oneself or to a deceased person once a day, for 21 days, by doing the following:
1. Make a good confession (within 21 days, with the possibility of offering one plenary indulgence for oneself or one‟s deceased loved ones per day);
2. Receive the Eucharist in the
state of grace on the day of
doing the indulgent work;
3. Pray for the Pope‟s intentions: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be;
4. Complete the indulgent work such as praying a family Rosary, reading Sacred Scripture for
30 minutes, praying the Rosary before the tabernacle;
5. And, the most difficult, be detached from all sin, even venial sin. Every time that sin comes to mind, you must detest it.
The partial completion of the above wins a partial indulgence. This work to help release the poor souls in purgatory takes much faith, hope and charity, because we do not see immediate results.
Rejoice in God‟s mercy, and helpout the material and spiritual poor when you can, especially during this month of November as we remember our deceased loved ones by praying for them, and visiting their grave sites.
Peace in Christ, Fr. Thomas McCabe