Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday

So, an indulgence is a way in which the Church, with the power of the Keys which Our Lord gave to St. Peter and his successors, joins our good works to the merits of the saints in Paradise and to Our Lord’s own sacrifice. Like a parent who supplements a child’s allowance to pay for a broken window, the spiritual treasury of the saints is opened up for us through the Church’s loving ministry. In this way, the holiness of the blessed profits and heals us in ways that go far beyond the damage that our sins have caused. Just as the parent’s act in paying the damages for the child should make the child more aware of his parents’ love and the requirements of justice and virtue, so the Church’s gift of indulgences is meant to be a personal experience of the solidarity of love and grace; they are not magic or “automatic forgiveness.” The Church distinguishes between partial and plenary indulgences. A plenary indulgence removes all the temporal punishment due to sin, while a partial indulgence removes only part of the debt. The Church makes this distinction because some of our good acts have the potential to be “life-changing” acts of conversion, while others represent smaller but still very important aspects of the journey of conversion. As the Church unites our acts and efforts to the grace of Jesus and the works and merits of the saints, she calls us to persevere day by day in our path to holiness. Both forms of indulgence are gifts of transforming love. We can obtain them for ourselves or for the sake of the faithful departed, who are completing their final purification in Purgatory. (We can offer up an indulgenced good work on behalf of a particular soul, but it is always up to God to determine when and how it will be applied.) To receive an indulgence, one must be in the state of grace, through a good sacramental Confession and receive Holy Communion, preferably on the day when the indulgenced work in performed. Union with Jesus through grace and the Church’s sacraments is the foundation of all growth in holiness. We must turn away from sin before we can eliminate the consequences of our sins. Since a Plenary Indulgence can be received every day, a person does not have to go to Confession every time he/she wants to perform an indulgenced work. But since the indulgence is part of a journey of conversion, we should go to Confession frequently as part of this growing in the Lord. And when we perform the indulgenced work, it is always joined to our prayer in faith, as members of the Church.

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