Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday

Appendix A: The Church’s Teaching on Indulgences by Rev. John Horgan, Archdiocese of Vancouver What Are the Effects of Sin? Our Church teaches that serious sins must be forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, sin has a double consequence. Grave or mortal sin deprives us of our communion and friendship with God. It makes us incapable of eternal life (Catechism, #1472). When our sins are absolved, this “eternal punishment” is forgiven. But there is another kind of debt or liability for sin that must be recognized too. We call this “temporal punishment.” How Does this Conversion and Purification Happen in My Life? It is easy to recognize that many of our sins affect our relationships with other people. For example, it is clear that sins of injustice, like stealing, demand reparation or repayment. If we have deprived another person of her reputation by gossip, we have to atone for that sin by trying to restore her good name. Sins which damage the property of others also involve responsibilities and liabilities. For instance, when a child is forgiven for breaking something, he may still have to replace the broken article in some way. Atoning for our wrongs and sins restores the balance of justice and re-affirms the truth of our relationships. In much the same way, the Church tells us that all sins have such temporal consequences from which we must be purified. Instead of thinking of such temporal punishment as a kind of vengeance coming from God, we should see that it comes from the very nature of sin itself. Whatever the sin may be, it always involves division and separation from our God, our neighbor and even our own self. Only perfect conversion, a whole-hearted turning away from sin and a complete turning towards God can attain this total purification for us and free us from the binding consequences of our sins. Every sin, whether grave or venial, involves an unhealthy attachment to created things which we have chosen in preference to God or the needs of our neighbour. We need to be cleansed of these attachments and their consequences, too. When we bear the sufferings and trials of this life with patience, viewing even our own death with serenity and trust, we are engaged in the purification of the temporal debt of sin.

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