My dear bros and sisters in Christ, I warmly welcome you all to the pilgrimage of today as I pray that the Lord in His goodness will make your journey and sacrifices bear abundant fruits for your journey of faith in Christ. May you be renewed in life, health and in your business concerns, through Christ Our Lord.
Today, I would like us to reflect on indulgences in general and as it relates to the Jubilee Year of Mercy in particular. We have been assured that during this year, there will be many opportunities for gaining indulgences and so it is only right and appropriate to pay attention to it so that we can take full advantage of this spiritual treasure that God has left with his Church for his peope. In his Apostolic Constitution, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, Blessed Paul VI explains indulgence to mean the remission in the sight of God of the temporal punishments due to sins which have already been forgiven and blotted out by God.
We see a clear demonstration of God doing this for David after he had sinned by committing adultery with the wife of Uriah. The Lord sent Nathan to scold David and point out his sin to him Nathan told him the story of the rich man who took the only lamb of a poor man to entertain his guest even though he had many more in his flock. At the anger of David, Nathan pointed out to him that he was the one because not being content with committing adultery with his wife, David still went ahead to murder Uriah. David accepted his guilt and did not argue nor make excuses and because he acknowledged his guilt, the Lord did not hesitate to forgive him. But then the Lord said he would receive punishment for the sin which is that the child born out of the adultery would die. Again David pleaded with God by prayer and fasting and so again God being a merciful Father indulged him. He granted David an indulgence by remission of the punishment that was due to him. What God did for David by allowing the child Solomon to live was to give him indulgence, the same thing that he does for us when we fulfil the conditions for gaining an indulgence.
Indulgence can either be plenary or partial and may be obtained for one’s self and in favour of the dead. Indulgences relate to the Sacrament of Penance and can be obtained through prayers and works of charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that an indulgence is obtained through the Church. By virtue of the power granted to her by Christ Jesus to bind and loose, the Church intervenes in favour of individual Christians and makes available to them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. The Catechism went further to say that this treasury is opened for us in order that the hearts of the faithful may be turned towards works of devotion, penance and charity and they may be encouraged to carry out these work. (cf. CCC, 1478).
From this we see that indulgence flows from the merits of Christ and the saints and as such is a gift, a benevolent show of the immensity of God’s mercy. Pope (St.) John Paul II discloses this reality in his Bull of Indiction Incarnationis Mysterium, 9 that “indulgence discloses the fullness of the Father’s mercy, who offers everyone his love, expressed primarily in the forgiveness of sins.” Going on he tells us that it is precisely through the ministry of the Church that God diffuses his mercy in the world, by means of that precious gift which from very ancient times has been called ‘indulgence’ (IM, 9). In essence, it is a following of one’s conversion for sin which separates the believer from God through the conduit of the Sacrament of Penance which offers new possibilities to recover the grace of justification and leads to our reconciliation with God. Yet this reconciliation does not mean that there are no enduring consequences of sin from which we must be purified and it is in this context precisely that indulgence comes to play since it is an expression of the “total gift of the mercy of God” (cf. John Paul II’s Bull Aperite portas Redemptori, 8).
In the Letter of His Holiness According to Which An Indulgence Is Granted to The Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis states that the Jubilee Indulgence is a plenary indulgence (that is, full) and lists seven (7) categories of people who can obtain the Jubilee Indulgence and the preconditions for it. In his words; “The Jubilee Indulgence is full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experience with faith, hope and charity…”
- All the Faithful: In the second paragraph of the Letter the Holy Father proclaims: “I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed.” Therefore, by going through the Holy Doors, making confession, attending Mass and receiving Communion, and praying the Intentions of the Holy Father, one automatically receives the Plenary Indulgence. The Holy Father puts it thus: “To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the Churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop…as a sign of deep desire for true conversion….It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intention that I bear in my heart for the good for of the Church and the entire world”
- The Sick, the Elderly and the Lonely: In the same letter the Pope continues: “Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”
- The Prisoners: The Holy Father spares a thought for them as well. He says, “My thoughts also turn to those who incarcerated, whose freedom is limited…May they all be touched in tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, becasie the mercy of God is able to transform heart, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”
- 4. Those who perform Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy: The experience of mercy becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. The Holy Father declares, “Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence…”
- The Deceased: “The Jubilee indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased….Thus as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace the unending beatitude.” Let us thus remember to book Masses for them.
- Those Who Have Procured Abortion: According to the Holy Father, the tragedy of abortion is an existential and moral ordeal that is profoundly unjust and condemnable. However, he empathizes with women who with either with superficial awareness of the extreme harm that such act entails commit abortion or are compelled to do it as the only option to save their lives. He encourages them not to lose hope “for the forgiveness of God cannot be denied to anyone who has repented especially when the person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.” The Holy Father went on to say: “For this reason too, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, beside indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.”
- Those who Attend Church Affiliated to the Fraternity of the Order of St. Pius X: This does not apply to us here in Lagos.
What better time to get this gift than in a Holy Year, the Jubilee Year of Mercy wherein we have been called to recall and make our own God’s ever flowing mercy. Its pertinence is obvious because with indulgence we get closer to Christ who committed no sin yet was wounded for our transgressions, and by his wounds we are healed (cf. Is 53:4f); it helps us seek our way to the Father through the performance of good works and by penitential expiation which are key elements in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. It obtains for us the graces required to overcome sins, especially the sins confessed. It keeps us holy and pure. Consequent upon this then, in this Year of Mercy, let us make prayer and good works ours so that we can gain the necessary indulgence which will go a long way to secure our spiritual communion with the saints and ultimately with the Father in heaven.
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