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Understanding the teachings of Jesus

How do we handle the mysteries of Jesus Christ‟s teachings? Sometimes his teachings are clear, “This is how you are to pray: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… give us this day, our daily bread…” (Mt. 6:9-10) This is straight forward, and I am happy to say that many people in our parish, especially among our youth, are taking this to heart and strive to pray every morning and night.

Sometimes Jesus‟ teachings are difficult to understand, and difficult to live. Yet, Jesus has promised to be with his Catholic Church always, as he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles (and their successors) at the Last Supper: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you an-other Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it… Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me… The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Cf. Jn. 14:15-26.

God gave the Twelve Apostles a special mission: “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Last two verses of the Gospel of Matthew 28:19-20.) It is clear that a Christian disciple is a “student follower of Christ” and that Jesus will be with the faithful always in the seven sacraments, especially and preeminently in the Holy Eucharist.

And yet, prior to this above passage, in today‟s Gospel Jesus speaks to the crowds in reference to Moses, the main human author of the Law and the Prophets. “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” Mt. 23:1-3

It reminds me of my childhood when one of my older siblings fell short of their own advice to me and said, “Do what I say, not what I do.” I think they had just warned me not to swear, but then swore shortly after their exhortation. Still, I respected their authority over me since delegated by my parents.

It seems that the scribes and Pharisees knew God‟s Ten Commandments (not as suggestions or recommendations, but as essential life principles from God) and their implications, but some did not practice them fully since distracted by worldly wealth. Those who did practice them were not perfect at it, but they practiced the vital art of humbly seeking forgiveness from God and others, and doing penance to repair the damage due to their sins and the sins of others, since we must make satisfaction or reparation for sins.

This explains Jesus‟ other mysterious teaching: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails {runs out}, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Lk. 16:6-9.

In other words, the children of this world are constantly making deals and helping each other grow in wealth. We, the children of God‟s light and love, are called to help each other to grow in spiritual wealth, but we are sometimes not as diligent, even though it is the wealth that Jesus has worked for since all saving grace and merit come from him.

Anyone who grows wealthy knows that they need to get the best deal, constantly learn and network with others. Jesus calls us to do the same with our spiritual wealth, but he puts a strange twist on it so that we might think more deeply about it. He wants us to use “dishonest wealth.”

This “dishonest wealth” comes to us when we do not have to work hard for it but inherit a small fortune from a relative who has died, or we win the lottery. In a sense, this is “dishonest wealth” be-cause we did not have to work hard for it, and yet our relationships and effort have paid off.

Similarly, spiritual “dishonest wealth” comes to us as an inherited gift of God‟s grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ who worked for it by his life of teaching, suffering, and passionate death upon the cross. By rising to eternal life, he distributes the Father‟s blessings to his people, especially to his saints who followed him

closely, and so they can distribute their own spiritual wealth to those who ask of them according to God‟s design.

Anytime we unite ourselves to Christ and offer up our pain, humiliation or sacrifice for the poor souls in purgatory, they are purified and draw closer to the fullness of heaven where they will never have to suffer again. Since they are in Christ, they can pray for us, but they can no longer grow in merit by overcoming difficulties, but we need to ask those souls in purgatory to pray for us, keeping this net-work of faith active and fruitful.

Most Christians will have much time in purgatory, unless they are like St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St. John Vianney, or St. Padre Pio who had the stigmata – the wounds of Christ – on his hands, feet and side for 50 years. It is not easy to attain Christ‟s commandment: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt. 5:48.

But what consolation to know that we can ask Christ and his Saints in heaven, and the souls in purgatory to help us avoid time in purgatory by helping us seek a plenary indulgence for our own soul and the poor souls in purgatory. The souls in purgatory have not used their God given gifts of time, talent and treasure sufficiently to attain the fullness of heaven, but we can help them, and ourselves, by striving and hopefully attaining and applying a plenary indulgence to them, or to ourselves.

A plenary indulgence is the complete forgiveness or remission of punishment due to sins which have already been confessed but have not been fully satisfied with the reparation necessary for that soul to enter into the fullness of heaven.

Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, said we can seek a plenary indulgence by doing these five things: 1) After a diligent examination of conscience, make a good confession, which means confessing the kind and number of mortal sins committed, or serious things omit-ted, since your last good confession; 2) Receiving holy communion in the state of grace; 3) Praying for the Pope‟s good intentions: one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be; 4) Doing the indulgent work on the same day as your Holy Communion and praying for the Pope, which includes one of the following: praying the family rosary, or the rosary in front of the tabernacle, or reading sacred scripture prayer-fully for 30 minutes, or praying the stations of the cross. And the last and most difficult is 5)Be detached from all sins, even venial sins, while doing those spiritual exercises. This means detesting any of the temptations that past sins illicit, and of course avoiding the near occasion of sin.

Jesus warns us that there are some who will know the faith, like the scribes and Pharisees, and sit on the chair of authority, but they will avoid doing penance and seek worldly goods. Whereas Christ‟s faithful disciples will seek spiritual treasures that will help them attain heaven for themselves and their loved ones. They will support all that protects and promotes the sanctity of human life and the fullness of the Catholic faith.

November is dedicated by the Church for praying for our de-ceased loved ones. A summary of how to attain a plenary indulgence for them or oneself can be found on the back of this Sunday Bulletin. If a person seeking a plenary indulgence falls short of any of the requirements, know that a partial indulgence is still attained, thanks to God‟s mercy through Jesus Christ and his Mystical Body, the Church.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Thomas McCabe


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