Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – November 19, 2017 by Monsignor Patrick Perez
Msgr. Patrick Perez, November 19, 2017
Twenty Fourth Sunday After Pentecost: (Resumed Sixth Sunday After Epiphany)
Monsignor began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary.
My dear faithful, I want to say a few words this morning about something I have spoken of before, this being the glorious 500th anniversary of Protestantism which the Pope has been talking about. Did you know he actually said we’ve all benefited from Martin Luther and things like that? Benefited from Martin Luther? So because of Luther, tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of people have gone to hell who wouldn’t have otherwise? That benefited them, I guess, in his opinion. But it is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Revolt and this being the end of the month of the Holy Souls, I wanted to raise the topic of indulgences again.
You know Martin Luther used indulgences as his excuse to break with the Church. It is a subject that I have covered before but after doing much reading since that last sermon I realized there may be some aspects of it that I did not touch adequately upon with you, so I wanted to revisit it briefly. If you are very interested there are a number of Catholic websites that can explain it more deeply than I will.
First of all, what is an indulgence? To begin with, I will explain what it is and what it is not. It’s defined as: “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed, gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church, which as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and of the saints.” That’s the definition. Now what it’s not is a kind of get-out-of-hell-free card like the Monopoly of life, spiritually speaking. It’s not that. It’s not permission to commit future sins and it has nothing to do with your eternal salvation in that sense. But it has to do with temporal punishment. Now here is the part I don’t believe I explained well enough before. Sin has two effects. When one sins, it’s not as though you go to confession and it’s taken care of and you know – God n’ me, we’re good now, right? Although that’s one part of it; but there are two parts, and we need to know for our future the difference between purgatory or heaven – you want go to heaven. So you need to pay attention to this.
Why? Because the flames of purgatory are as the flames of hell, except the people in purgatory know they are eventually getting out. It is not like the dentist’s waiting room as they say, where there’s old Life and Reader’s Digest and AARP magazines sitting around and you just sit there until you get out. You want to avoid purgatory. I know, most of us are saying, O God, if I just get to purgatory, how wonderful, please, I just want to get to purgatory. No, you’ve got to go for the brass ring which is to skip purgatory and go right to God.
So there are two effects of sin; which we call eternal and temporal effects. Eternal effects are whether you go to heaven or hell eventually. The sacrament of penance, confession, takes care of the eternal consequences, the eternal effects of sin. You commit a mortal sin and if you die at that point without repenting, going to confession, you would go to hell. But you go in, you talk to me, you get a penance, come out and the Church through my ministry, through this priest, has taken care of the eternal consequences of that sin. You will no longer go to hell for them but there is something left over and this is where indulgences come in.
Let’s take the temporal consequences and I’ll just use me as an example; I don’t want to say that one of you might commit a murder. Let’s say I committed a murder, the murder of an innocent person, okay? Now especially coming from a priest, that’s very untoward you might say. But normally of course I’m not given to thinking of murdering anybody -- except if an altar boy makes a mistake (Monsignor laughing) but that’s why I’m using me as an example. Now if I took an innocent life and I did not go to confession I would deserve to go to hell. There would be no two ways about it. When I go in the confessional and tell father and get my penance, the eternal consequences are taken care of, I no longer am going to hell. But there are other effects that ripple through the world and through the body of Christ from sins. These are the temporal consequences. Just using murder as an example: there’s the death of the innocent person. What might that person have accomplished in their life; what was their job; what was their position; who were they helping – were they a father of a family? Of course they were somebody’s beloved son. That’s the first of the consequences; a family might be without their father, or a wife would be without her husband and the children without their father, the breadwinner – you know, this kind of thing.
There would also be the suffering of my family who would have to deal with the shame of having their son be a murderer and be known for that. People would whisper, that’s Christina -- her brother is the one who went berserk and shot the altar boys. So there is shame in that; another temporal punishment.
The effects of the loss of an innocent person on the family, the cost to the community in the loss of an innocent person; the cost of the community in litigation, somebody would pay for a trial, somebody has to pay for the incarceration; these things are a cost to the community; the cost of the spiritual effects on the weaker members of the community whose view of the world and God’s justice and mercy could be affected knowing that an innocent life could be taken so easily; the tarnishing of the image of the Body of Christ and the bringing of scandal upon the Church and the priesthood. That is seriously why these particularly bad sins committed by a priest are so, so horrible. It’s because of these effects on the whole Body of Christ. If I, a priest, kill somebody, people could lose their faith over that and they would be damned to eternal perdition because of what I did because they are all temporal consequences of sin. So even though the eternal consequences of the sin are remitted, temporal consequences remain.
I know it’s early and it’s hard to digest a lot of this so I’ll try to make this as condensed as possible. Picture God giving to St. Peter, reading Matthew Chapter 16, the Power of the Keys of binding and loosing. Now to bind is to hold sins down or whatever; to loose is to free people from their sins or to do other things that you might, using the Power of the Keys. It stands to reason that if Christ, God, gave to St. Peter and his successors the power to remove eternal consequences by a sacrament, namely penance, then He could do something even lesser with the Power of the Keys lessening or doing away with the temporal consequences or what a person owes God in justice for the other things related to the sin that happened because of it. These temporal consequences are much overlooked. Think about any sin you do, right down to somebody who knows you’re a Catholic and they’re thinking about the Faith but you’re swearing up a blue streak on the job, like a drunken sailor, using this horrible language and he thinks, You know, oh, forget it; this guy is Catholic and that’s just scandalous. I think I’m going to go look into something else, right? That is a temporal consequence of something that, compared to murder, you might think is fairly minor, but look at this. We put somebody on the wrong path, a path that does not lead to heaven by our external comportment and language and things like that. This is why we have to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner. On the other hand, there is the positive side. While the evil of sin sends ripples through the Mystical Body, the opposite happens when you do something good. You build up graces and are an attraction to others to the Catholic Church.
So it stands to reason then that the Church CAN do something about these temporal consequences because if you go to confession and everything is forgiven in confession and you die without taking care of these temporal consequences you go to purgatory. And as I was saying earlier, you want to take care of everything. I always think of the girl at Fatima. You know when Our Lady appeared to the little shepherd children they said, Well, what about so and so, this girl who died who was 18 years old, okay? You think, 18 years, how bad can an 18 year old be, right? Well, whatever she did, Our Lady’s response was, “She will be in purgatory until the end of time”! That should be a wake-up call because those of us who have multiples of 18 at this point, what have we accumulated as our temporal debt?
So the Church can take care of these temporal debts, what we owe God for the side effects of our sins and these things are the indulgences. Now what the Church and popes do and have done is to attach a remission of what you owe for your temporal consequences by doing certain things – your debt of justice owed to God; and they specify certain things. There are two forms or two grades, there’s what we call a partial indulgence and what we call a plenary indulgence. Partial indulgences remit to God part of what we owe for the temporal consequences of our sins; a plenary indulgence remits everything – you have a blank slate, you’re good from that moment on until you do something else. That is a plenary indulgence.
Now I’ll just run over a few things we can do to gain them. One thing I suggest is for partial indulgences the conditions are not as rigid; for plenary it’s much harder because they are worth more, which makes sense. In any case, right now at this moment set your will, you talk to God just like I’m talking to you and you say, I intend to gain the indulgences for anything I do which has an indulgence attached to it from now on. Amen. Okay? That’s what we call an habitual or virtual intention and when you do something that has an indulgence attached to it now and you’re disposed properly even without you realizing at the moment, God will give you that indulgence for that action.
Now, there are general grants for partial indulgences and listen to these:
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in the performance of their duties and in bearing the trials of life, raise their mind with humble confidence to God, adding - even if only mentally – some pious invocation, like Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Now getting the partial indulgence presupposes you are in the state of grace. You don’t have to go to confession for every one if you are in the state of grace. So if you are in the state of grace you can get it. You have to have that intention, you can make a virtual intention which we just did, and you have to do the action that the indulgence is prescribed for.
So the First general grants say, If you raise your heart and your mind to God in the trials of life and say Lord have mercy on me, or one of these pious short prayers, and here’s where the internet comes in handy, there are lists of these pious invocations that you can look up.
The Second general grant:
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who in a spirit of faith and mercy give of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.
So alms giving, partial indulgences.
The Third general grant:
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who in a spirit of faith and mercy give of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.
So if there is something you like doing that is not sinful and give it up to take care of some of the consequences, the tenfold consequences of sins you’ve done, the Church attaches that partial indulgence. The problem with partial indulgence is they are not quantifiable. A plenary is the whole schmeer; partial is kind of like venial or mortal sins. Partial can be big partial or little partial depending on the disposition and what the action is. In books [Enchiridion Indulgentiarum or Raccolta] in the old days you see things like 100 days indulgence attached to things or whatever. That was an attempt to quantify and it meant you get the equivalent from doing this partial indulgence as doing 100 days of hard penance as assigned by the priest like a bread and water fast, that’s all that meant. So those are the partial indulgences.
There are indulgenced prayers, a list of which can be found on the internet.
Any indulgenced works, such as the devout use of a properly blessed article of devotion (Crucifix, Rosary, scapulars, or medals), reading Scripture, making the Sign of the Cross, visits to the Blessed Sacrament or whatever. There are special grants attached to these.
Now a plenary indulgence; this is the brass ring you’re going for. It has conditions. Actually most of them are not hard; it’s the last one that’s hard. I just wanted to save it to last so you wouldn’t leave.
Have the intention of gaining the indulgence. Okay, so you do that habitually but for a plenary indulgence you should do it specifically each time.
Receive the Sacrament of Penance on the day that you want to get the indulgence or -- or a few days before or after that day. Okay, let’s say you have a week total with the day you do the indulgence, in the middle, so a few days here, a few days there.
Receive the Eucharist as well, a few days before, a few days after…
Say, traditionally, six Our Fathers, six Hail Mary’s, and six Glorias (Glory Be’s) for the intention of the Holy Father within several days before or after. The most recent rules on indulgences say only one of each. So if you want to do the traditional, you will probably get more grace, say six of each; but you want to do the minimum at least, one of each.
Then you have to do the prescribed actions of the indulgence and those are prescribed as well on line but I’ll give you a few of them.
Now, an important footnote regarding prayers for the intention of the Holy Father. Your pastor or confessor can alter the conditions for a plenary indulgence if they present a real and true hardship. As far as we can tell the Pope’s intentions are to destroy the Catholic Church. I don’t want to be adding my prayers to his for that. So, I can commute it to, for example, praying for his conversion, or praying just for the pope, or praying for the good intentions of the pope. I would strongly suggest not joining your intentions to those of the pope because he has no visible good intentions according to any statement he’s ever made in public.
The last one:
You must be free from the attachment to all sin, even venial sin. Now what’s attachment? Okay, we all do sins and we all confess them and at the moment you confess them, I never want to do that sin again even though we know, I’m going to do that sin again, okay? That is not being attached to a sin. Being attached to a sin is, I know it’s a little sin, maybe a venial sin, but I ain’t going to give it up; I enjoy it; whatever that may be. Maybe the ladies getting together over coffee and talking about their neighbor, this kind of thing, some kind of venial sin, something you are not going to go to hell for, but if you are attached to doing it, you can’t get a plenary indulgence. So what you have to do is weed out your garden. You have to think which things you’re attached to and let.them.go. In the end you say, Dear Lord, I do not want to offend You in even the slightest way ever again. If I am attached to something I do not know, I give it up for You. At that point, after you have done the action you can get the plenary indulgence and a full remission of all the temporal consequences of all your sins. It is worth it.
Just a couple more details: On most days of the year you may gain one plenary indulgence. It may only be gained for yourself or for the souls in purgatory. You can’t gain a plenary indulgence or any indulgence for another living person, okay?
And here’s a few - and so easy. If you are here at the time we have the Rosary before Mass with all the other conditions, there is a plenary indulgence attached to that. If you come here at some odd hour and pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour, there is a plenary indulgence attached to that.
If on Friday you go back to your pew and you say the prayer to Christ Crucified, “Look down upon me good and gentle Jesus, which a lot of people do anyway, on the Friday’s in Lent there’s a plenary indulgence attached to that. You can go look up what they are.
My dear faithful, indulgences are something that we don’t talk about a lot because you know the whole history of Protestantism and it’s almost like we are ashamed of indulgences. They are a great gift, a great gift, and we need to make more use of them. You have to go for the indulgences, you just have to do it.
There is a museum in Rome of Purgatory and it has visible objects and stories of apparitions from purgatory and there are a few there that say the same thing: While on earth -- I am suffering so terribly in purgatory and I know I’m going to heaven but I’m suffering. I would have undergone any humiliation while on earth, anything, any work to get out of this but I was too foolish to do it. Don’t let that happen to us; don’t let that be you. Go for the indulgences. If you have questions about this look it up on line. The best thing to Google is “list of indulgences”. It will bring you to a number of good sites like Fisheaters.com and you will find a full explanation for your spiritual and eternal benefit.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.