Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 606-611 – Christ Offered Himself to His Father for Our Sins

clock December 21, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ Last Supper and redemptive mission. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Tractates on the Gospel of John”.

III. CHRIST OFFERED HIMSELF TO HIS FATHER FOR OUR SINS

Christ's whole life is an offering to the Father

606 The Son of God, who came down "from heaven, not to do (his) own will, but the will of him who sent (him)",413 said on coming into the world, "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God." "and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."414 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father's plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work."415 The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world"416 expresses his loving communion with the Father. "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life", said the Lord, "(for) I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father."417

607 The desire to embrace his Father's plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus' whole life,418 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, "and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour."419 and again, "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"420 From the cross, just before "It is finished", he said, "I thirst."421

"The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world"

608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".422 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption at the first Passover.423 Christ's whole life expresses his mission: "to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."424

Jesus freely embraced the Father's redeeming love

609 By embracing in his human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus "loved them to the end", for "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."425 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.426 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."427 Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went out to his death.428

At the Last Supper Jesus anticipated the free offering of his life

610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles "on the night he was betrayed".429 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: "This is my body which is given for you." "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."430

611 The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice.431 Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it.432 By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth."433

St. Augustine discusses Christ as the Lamb of God in his “Tractates on the Gospel of John” (Tractate 7 John 1:34-51).

5. The next day, John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God! Assuredly, in a special sense, the Lamb; for the disciples were also called lambs: Behold, I send you as lambs in the midst of wolves. Matthew 10:16 They were also called light: You are the light of the world; Matthew 5:14 but in another sense is He called so, concerning whom it was said, That was the true light, which lights every man that comes into the world. John 1:9 In like manner was He called the dove in a special sense, alone without stain, without sin; not one whose sins have been washed away, but One who never had stain. For what? Because John said concerning the Lord, Behold the Lamb of God, was not John himself a lamb? Was he not a holy man? Was he not the friend of the Bridegroom? Wherefore, with a special meaning, said John of Him, This is the Lamb of God; because solely by the blood of this Lamb alone could men be redeemed.

6. My brethren, if we acknowledge our price, that it is the blood of the Lamb, who are they who this day celebrate the festival of the blood of I know not what woman, and how ungrateful are they! The gold was snatched, they say, from the ear of a woman, and the blood ran, and the gold was placed on a pair of scales or on a balance, and the advantage was much on the side of the blood. If the blood of a woman was sufficiently weighty to outweigh the gold, what power to outweigh the world has the blood of the Lamb by whom the world was made? And, indeed, that spirit, I know not who, was pacified by the blood that he should depress the weight. Impure spirits knew that Jesus Christ would come, they had heard of His coming from the angels, they had heard of it from the prophets, and they expected it. For if they were not expecting it, why did they exclaim, What have we to do with You? Are You come before the time to destroy us? We know who You are; the Holy One of God. Mark 1:24 They expected that He would come, but they were ignorant of the time. But what have you heard in the psalm regarding Jerusalem? For Your servants have taken pleasure in her stones, and will pity the dust thereof. You shall arise, says he, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time has come that You will have mercy upon her. When the time came for God to have mercy, the Lamb came. What sort of a Lamb whom wolves fear? What sort of a Lamb is it who, when slain, slew a lion? For the devil is called a lion, going about and roaring, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8 By the blood of the Lamb the lion was vanquished. Behold the spectacles of Christians. And what is more: they with the eyes of the flesh behold vanity, we with the eyes of the heart behold truth. Do not think, brethren, that our Lord God has dismissed us without spectacles; for if there are no spectacles, why have ye come together today? Behold, what we have said you saw, and you exclaimed; you would not have exclaimed if you had not seen. And this is a great thing to see in the whole world, the lion vanquished by the blood of the Lamb: members of Christ delivered from the teeth of the lions, and joined to the body of Christ. Therefore some spirit or other contrived the counterfeit that His image should be bought for blood, because he knew that the human race was at some time to be redeemed by the precious blood. For evil spirits counterfeit certain shadows of honor to themselves, that they may deceive those who follow Christ. So much so, my brethren, that those who seduce by means of amulets, by incantations, by the devices of the enemy, mingle the name of Christ with their incantations: because they are not now able to seduce Christians, so as to give them poison they add some honey, that by means of the sweet the bitter may be concealed, and be drunk to ruin. So much so, that I know that the priest of that Pilleatus was sometimes in the habit of saying, Pilleatus himself also is a Christian. Why so, brethren, unless that they were not able otherwise to seduce Christians?

Footnotes

413 ⇒ Jn 6:38.
414 ⇒ Heb 10:5-10.
415 ⇒ Jn 4:34.
416 1 ⇒ Jn 2:2.
417 ⇒ Jn 10:17; ⇒ 14:31.
418 Cf ⇒ Lk 12:50; ⇒ 22:15; ⇒ Mt 16:21-23.
419 ⇒ Jn 12:27.
420 ⇒ Jn 18:11.
421 ⇒ Jn 19:30; ⇒ 19:28.
422 ⇒ Jn 1:29; cf. ⇒ Lk 3:21; ⇒ Mt 3:14-15; ⇒ Jn 1:36.
423 ⇒ Is 53:7, ⇒ 12; cf. Jer 11:19; ⇒ Ex 12:3-14; ⇒ Jn 19:36; ⇒ 1 Cor 5:7.
424 ⇒ Mk 10:45.
425 ⇒ Jn 13:1; ⇒ 15:13.
426 Cf. ⇒ Heb 2:10, ⇒ 17-18; ⇒ 4:15; ⇒ 5:7-9.
427 ⇒ Jn 10:18.
428 Cf. ⇒ Jn 18:4-6; ⇒ Mt 26:53.
429 Roman Missal, EP III; cf. ⇒ Mt 26:20; ⇒ I Cor 11:23.
430 ⇒ Lk 22:19; ⇒ Mt 26:28; cf. ⇒ I5.7Cor 5:7.
431 ⇒ 1 Cor 11:25.
432 Cf. ⇒ Lk 22:19.
433 ⇒ Jn 17:19; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1752; 1764.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 595-605, 619-622 – Jesus’ Death As Ransom for our Sins

clock December 20, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ death as a redemptive act in the plan of God. Supporting material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica”.

Paragraph 2. JESUS DIED CRUCIFIED

I. THE TRIAL OF JESUS

Divisions among the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus

595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ's Passion, "many.. . believed in him", though very imperfectly.378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" and "some believers. . . belonged to the party of the Pharisees", to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, "How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law."379

596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.380 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.381 To those who feared that "everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation", the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."382 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.383 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.384

Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus' death

597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost.385 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.386 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.387 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council: . . .

Neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture.388

All sinners were the authors of Christ's Passion

598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that "sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured."389 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,390 The Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.391

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.392

II. CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE DEATH IN GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION

"Jesus handed over according to the definite plan of God"

599 Jesus' violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God's plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: "This Jesus (was) delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God."393 This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.394

600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."395 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.396
"He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures"

601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.397 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received", St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures."398 In particular Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant.399 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant.400 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.401

"For our sake God made him to be sin"

602 Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers... with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake."402 Man's sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death.403 By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."404

603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.405 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"406 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all", so that we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son".407

God takes the initiative of universal redeeming love

604 By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins."408 God "shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."409

605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God's love excludes no one: "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."410 He affirms that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."412

IN BRIEF

619 "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (⇒ I Cor 15:3).

620 Our salvation flows from God's initiative of love for us, because "he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (⇒ I Jn 4:10). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (⇒ 2 Cor 5:19).

621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: "This is my body which is given for you" (⇒ Lk 22:19).

622 The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (⇒ Mt 20:28), that is, he "loved [his own] to the end" (⇒ Jn 13:1), so that they might be "ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers" (⇒ I Pt 1:18).

In his “Summa Theologica” (3, 49), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses how Christ’s death reconciled us with God.

Article 5. Whether Christ opened the gate of heaven to us by His Passion?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ did not open the gate of heaven to us by His Passion. For it is written (Proverbs 11:18): "To him that soweth justice, there is a faithful reward." But the reward of justice is the entering into the kingdom of heaven. It seems, therefore, that the holy Fathers who wrought works of justice, obtained by faith the entering into the heavenly kingdom even without Christ's Passion. Consequently Christ's Passion is not the cause of the opening of the gate of the kingdom of heaven.

Objection 2. Further, Elias was caught up to heaven previous to Christ's Passion (2 Kings 2). But the effect never precedes the cause. Therefore it seems that the opening of heaven's gate is not the result of Christ's Passion.

Objection 3. Further, as it is written (Matthew 3:16), when Christ was baptized the heavens were opened to Him. But His baptism preceded the Passion. Consequently the opening of heaven is not the result of Christ's Passion.

Objection 4. Further, it is written (Micah 2:13): "For He shall go up that shall open the way before them." But to open the way to heaven seems to be nothing else than to throw open its gate. Therefore it seems that the gate of heaven was opened to us, not by Christ's Passion, but by His Ascension.

On the contrary, is the saying of the Apostle (Hebrews 10:19): "We have [Vulgate: 'having a'] confidence in the entering into the Holies"--that is, of the heavenly places--"through the blood of Christ."

I answer that, The shutting of the gate is the obstacle which hinders men from entering in. But it is on account of sin that men were prevented from entering into the heavenly kingdom, since, according to Isaiah 35:8: "It shall be called the holy way, and the unclean shall not pass over it." Now there is a twofold sin which prevents men from entering into the kingdom of heaven. The first is common to the whole race, for it is our first parents' sin, and by that sin heaven's entrance is closed to man. Hence we read in Genesis 3:24 that after our first parents' sin God "placed . . . cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." The other is the personal sin of each one of us, committed by our personal act.

Now by Christ's Passion we have been delivered not only from the common sin of the whole human race, both as to its guilt and as to the debt of punishment, for which He paid the penalty on our behalf; but, furthermore, from the personal sins of individuals, who share in His Passion by faith and charity and the sacraments of faith. Consequently, then the gate of heaven's kingdom is thrown open to us through Christ's Passion. This is precisely what the Apostle says (Hebrews 9:11-12): "Christ being come a high-priest of the good things to come . . . by His own blood entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption." And this is foreshadowed (Numbers 35:25-28), where it is said that the slayer* "shall abide there"--that is to say, in the city of refuge--"until the death of the high-priest, that is anointed with the holy oil: but after he is dead, then shall he return home." [The Septuagint has 'slayer', the Vulgate, 'innocent'--i.e. the man who has slain 'without hatred and enmity'.]

Reply to Objection 1. The holy Fathers, by doing works of justice, merited to enter into the heavenly kingdom, through faith in Christ's Passion, according to Hebrews 11:33: The saints "by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice," and each of them was thereby cleansed from sin, so far as the cleansing of the individual is concerned. Nevertheless the faith and righteousness of no one of them sufficed for removing the barrier arising from the guilt of the whole human race: but this was removed at the cost of Christ's blood. Consequently, before Christ's Passion no one could enter the kingdom of heaven by obtaining everlasting beatitude, which consists in the full enjoyment of God.

Reply to Objection 2. Elias was taken up into the atmospheric heaven, but not in to the empyrean heaven, which is the abode of the saints: and likewise Enoch was translated into the earthly paradise, where he is believed to live with Elias until the coming of Antichrist.

Reply to Objection 3. As was stated above (Question 39, Article 5), the heavens were opened at Christ's baptism, not for Christ's sake, to whom heaven was ever open, but in order to signify that heaven is opened to the baptized, through Christ's baptism, which has its efficacy from His Passion.

Reply to Objection 4. Christ by His Passion merited for us the opening of the kingdom of heaven, and removed the obstacle; but by His ascension He, as it were, brought us to the possession of the heavenly kingdom. And consequently it is said that by ascending He "opened the way before them."

Footnotes

378 ⇒ Jn 12:42; cf. ⇒ 7:50; ⇒ 9:16-17; ⇒ 10:19-21; ⇒ 19:38-39.
379 ⇒ Acts 6:7; ⇒ 15:5; ⇒ 21:20.
380 cf. ⇒ Jn 9:16; ⇒ 10:19.
381 Cf ⇒ Jn 9:22.
382 ⇒ Jn 11:48-50.
383 Cf. ⇒ Mt 26:66; ⇒ Jn 18:31; ⇒ Lk 23:2, ⇒ 19.
384 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:12, ⇒ 15, ⇒ 21.
385 Cf. ⇒ Mk 15:11; ⇒ Acts 2:23, ⇒ 36; ⇒ 3:13-14; ⇒ 4:10; ⇒ 5:30; ⇒ 7:52; ⇒ 10:39; ⇒ 13:27-28; ⇒ I Th 2:14-15.
386 Cf. ⇒ Lk 23:34; ⇒ Acts 3:17.
387 ⇒ Mt 27:25; cf. ⇒ Acts 5:28; ⇒ 18:6.
388 NA 4.
389 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. ⇒ Heb 12:3.
390 Cf. ⇒ Mt 25:45; ⇒ Acts 9:4-5.
391 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. ⇒ Heb 6:6; ⇒ 1 Cor 2:8.
392 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.
393 ⇒ Acts 2:23.
394 Cf. ⇒ Acts 3:13.
395 ⇒ Acts 4:27-28; cf. ⇒ Ps 2:1-2.
396 Cf. ⇒ Mt 26:54; ⇒ Jn 18:36; ⇒ 19:11; ⇒ Acts 3:17-18.
397 ⇒ Is 53:11; cf. ⇒ 53:12; ⇒ Jn 8 34-36; ⇒ Acts 3:14.
398 ⇒ 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also ⇒ Acts 3:18; ⇒ 7:52; ⇒ 13:29; ⇒ 26:22-23.
399 Cf. ⇒ Is 53:7-8 and ⇒ Acts 8:32-35.
400 Cf. ⇒ Mt 20:28.
401 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:25-27, ⇒ 44-45.
402 I Pt 1:18-20.
403 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:12; ⇒ I Cor 15:56.
404 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:21; cf. ⇒ Phil 2:7; ⇒ Rom 8:3.
405 Cf. ⇒ Jn 8:46.
406 ⇒ Mk 15:34; ⇒ Ps 22:2; cf. ⇒ Jn 8:29.
407 ⇒ Rom 8:32; ⇒ 5:10.
408 ⇒ I John 4:10; ⇒ 4:19.
409 ⇒ Rom 5:8.
410 ⇒ Mt 18:14.
411 ⇒ Mt 20:28; cf. ⇒ Rom 5:18-19.
412 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. ⇒ 2 Cor 5:15; I ⇒ Jn 2:2[ETML:C/].



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 583-591, 593-594 The Temple and The One God

clock December 19, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections cover Jesus and the Temple and Jesus’ and Israel’s Faith in the One God. Supporting material comes from St. John Chrysostom’s “Homilies on the Gospel of John”.

II. JESUS AND THE TEMPLE

583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.349 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's business.350 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.351 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.352

584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce.353He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: "You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'"354 After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.355

585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain "one stone upon another".356 By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.357 But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest's house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.358

586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.359 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God's definitive dwelling-place among men.360 Therefore his being put to bodily death361 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: "The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."362

III. JESUS AND ISRAEL'S FAITH IN THE ONE GOD AND SAVIOUR

587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel's religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.363

588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.364 Against those among them "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others", Jesus affirmed: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."365 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.366

589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them.367 He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet.368 But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"369By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God's equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God's name.370

590 Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "He who is not with me is against me"; and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah,. . . greater than Solomon", something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord,371 and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM", and even "I and the Father are one."372

591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father's works which he accomplished.373 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new "birth from above" under the influence of divine grace.374 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises375 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin's tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.376 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of "ignorance" and the "hardness" of their "unbelief".377

IN BRIEF

593 Jesus venerated the Temple by going up to it for the Jewish feasts of pilgrimage, and with a jealous love he loved this dwelling of God among men. The Temple prefigures his own mystery. When he announces its destruction, it is as a manifestation of his own execution and of the entry into a new age in the history of salvation, when his Body would be the definitive Temple.

594 Jesus performed acts, such as pardoning sins, that manifested him to be the Savior God himself (cf ⇒ Jn 5:16-18). Certain Jews, who did not recognize God made man (cf ⇒ Jn 1:14), saw in him only a man who made himself God (⇒ Jn 10:33), and judged him as a blasphemer.

In his “Homilies on the Gospel of John”, St. John Chrysostom teaches on the episode where Christ drove the money-changers out of the Temple.

2. Another Evangelist writes, that as He cast them out, He said, Make not my Father's house a den of thieves, but this one,

John 2:16

(Make not My Father's house) an house of merchandise.

They do not in this contradict each other, but show that he did this a second time, and that both these expressions were not used on the same occasion, but that He acted thus once at the beginning of His ministry, and again when He had come to the very time of His Passion. Therefore, (on the latter occasion,) employing more strong expressions, He spoke of it as (being made) a den of thieves, but here at the commencement of His miracles He does not so, but uses a more gentle rebuke; from which it is probable that this took place a second time.

And wherefore, says one, did Christ do this same, and use such severity against these men, a thing which He is nowhere else seen to do, even when insulted and reviled, and called by them 'Samaritan' and 'demoniac'? For He was not even satisfied with words only, but took a scourge, and so cast them out. Yes, but it was when others were receiving benefit, that the Jews accused and raged against Him; when it was probable that they would have been made savage by His rebukes, they showed no such disposition towards Him, for they neither accused nor reviled Him. What say they?

John 2:18

What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that You do these things?

Do you see their excessive malice, and how the benefits done to others incensed them more (than reproofs)?

At one time then He said, that the Temple was made by them a den of thieves, showing that what they sold was gotten by theft, and rapine, and covetousness, and that they were rich through other men's calamities; at another, a house of merchandise, pointing to their shameless traffickings. But wherefore did He this? Since he was about to heal on the Sabbath day, and to do many such things which were thought by them transgressions of the Law, in order that He might not seem to do this as though He had come to be some rival God and opponent of His Father, He takes occasion hence to correct any such suspicion of theirs. For One who had exhibited so much zeal for the House was not likely to oppose Him who was Lord of the House, and who was worshipped in it. No doubt even the former years during which He lived according to the Law, were sufficient to show His reverence for the Legislator, and that He came not to give contrary laws; yet since it was likely that those years were forgotten through lapse of time, as not having been known to all because He was brought up in a poor and mean dwelling, He afterwards does this in the presence of all, (for many were present because the feast was near at hand,) and at great risk. For he did not merely cast them out, but also overturned the tables, and poured out the money, giving them by this to understand, that He who threw Himself into danger for the good order of the House could never despise his Master. Had He acted as He did from hypocrisy, He should only have advised them; but to place Himself in danger was very daring. For it was no light thing to offer Himself to the anger of so many market-folk, to excite against Himself a most brutal mob of petty dealers by His reproaches and His blows, this was not the action of a pretender, but of one choosing to suffer everything for the order of the House.

And therefore not by His actions only, but by His words, He shows his agreement with the Father; for He says not the Holy House, but My Father's House. See, He even calls Him, Father, and they are not angry; they thought He spoke in a general way: but when He went on and spoke more plainly, so as to set before them the idea of His Equality, then they become angry.

And what say they? What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that You do these things? Alas for their utter madness! Was there need of a sign before they could cease their evil doings, and free the house of God from such dishonor? And was it not the greatest sign of His Excellence that He had gotten such zeal for that House?

Footnotes

349 ⇒ Lk 2:22-39.
350 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2 46-49.
351 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2 41.
352 Cf. ⇒ Jn 2 13-14; ⇒ 5:1, ⇒ 14; ⇒ 7:1, ⇒ 10, ⇒ 14; ⇒ 8 2; ⇒ 10:22-23.
353 Cf. ⇒ Mt 21:13.
354 ⇒ Jn 2:16-17; cf. ⇒ Ps 69:10.
355 Cf. ⇒ Acts 2:46; ⇒ 3:1; ⇒ 5:20, ⇒ 21; etc.
356 Cf. ⇒ Mt 24:1-2.
357 Cf. ⇒ Mt 24:3; ⇒ Lk 13:35.
358 Cf ⇒ Mk 14:57-58; ⇒ Mt 27 39-40.
359 Cf. ⇒ Mt 8:4; ⇒ 16:18; ⇒ 17:24-27; ⇒ Lk 17:14; ⇒ Jn 4:22; ⇒ 18:20.
360 Cf. ⇒ Jn 2:21; ⇒ Mt 12:6.
361 Cf. ⇒ Jn 2:18-22.
362 ⇒ Jn 4:21; cf. ⇒ 4:23-24; ⇒ Mt 27:5; ⇒ Heb 9:11; ⇒ Rev 21:22.
363 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:34; ⇒ 20:17-18; ⇒ Ps 118:22.
364 Cf. ⇒ Lk 5:30; ⇒ 7:36; ⇒ 11:37; ⇒ 14:1.
365 ⇒ Lk 18:9; ⇒ 5:32; cf. ⇒ Jn 7:49; ⇒ 9:34.
366 Cf. ⇒ Jn 8:33-36; ⇒ 9:40-41.
367 Cf. ⇒ Mt 9:13; ⇒ Hos 6:6.
368 Cf. ⇒ Lk 15:1-2, ⇒ 22-32.
369 ⇒ Mk 2:7.
370 Cf. ⇒ Jn 5:18; ⇒ 10:33; ⇒ 17:6,26.
371 Cf. ⇒ Mt 12:6, ⇒ 30, ⇒ 36, ⇒ 37, ⇒ 41-42.
372 ⇒ Jn 8:58; ⇒ 10:30.
373 ⇒ Jn 10:36-38.
374 Cf. ⇒ Jn 3:7; ⇒ 6:44.
375 Cf. ⇒ Is 53:1.
376 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:6; ⇒ Mt 26:64-66.
377 Cf. ⇒ Lk 23 34; ⇒ Acts 3: 17-18; ⇒ Mk 3:5; ⇒ Rom 11:25, ⇒ 20.



Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

clock December 18, 2012 21:40 by author John |

This article is the fifth in a series on Purgatory:

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

What are Indulgences?

The word indulgence comes from the Latin "indulgentia", meaning kind or tender. This word later came to mean the remission of tax, debt, or punishment. This is the meaning of the word in the Catholic Church as well. An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. Even though sins are forgiven, they must be atoned for, since they do damage to our relationship with God, and they harm others. Though the relationship with God is restored and the guilt removed for sins through the Sacrament of Confession, we must still make amends for the harm that our sins have caused. We believe that this debt will be repaid either on Earth or in Purgatory after our judgment. Indulgences are a way for us to repay some (or all) of the debt we have accumulated for our sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1471) defines indulgences in this way:

"An indulgence is 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 the saints."

"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.

As I mentioned in a previous article on Purgatory, it may be helpful to call to mind an example to illustrate the difference between forgiveness of sins and atonement for sins. If Bob spreads rumors about Sally and then asks Sally for forgiveness, and she forgives him, then the relationship is restored. However, there is still a problem in that Sally's reputation has been harmed and people who heard the rumors may have an unfavorable opinion of Sally. Bob must do everything he can to repair Sally's reputation. Until her reputation is restored, justice has not been satisfied. Purgatory is the place where unfulfilled justice is dispensed by the All-Just God.

An indulgence is not the same thing as the Sacrament of Confession, nor does it have the same effect. Gaining an indulgence does not fix our relationship with God the same way a Sacramental confession does. Our sins cannot be forgiven by gaining an indulgence. An indulgence simply lessens or removes the punishment we would have in Purgatory. In fact, an indulgence can only be gained for yourself when you are in the state of grace - which is a result of Sacramental Confession. An indulgence is not a guarantee of avoiding Hell or Purgatory.

How can the Church Grant Indulgences?

In Matthew 16:19, our Lord says to Peter,

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This is the power of binding and loosing. It is an incredible responsibility that our Lord confers on the first Pope. The Church has utilized this power to lessen or remove temporal punishment in Purgatory.

The "Treasury" of the Church

Christ, in His suffering and death purchased for us superabundant merits which are "stored up" by the Church. To this "treasury" of merits is added those merits gained by the Blessed Mother in her trials and heartbreak, as well as those merits gained by the saints. This treasury cannot be depleted and the Church confers these merits upon us as an agent of Christ in carrying out His command to "bind and loose". These merits release the penitent from the debt he owes the Church and from the temporal punishment he owes God as a satisfaction of God's perfect justice. An indulgence is not a means of ignoring or subverting Divine Justice, but rather is a way of paying the penalty we owe. The Church does not "own" the treasury of merit, but is simply the administrator of it.

Universal, Local, Perpetual and Temporary Indulgences

A Universal indulgence can be gained anywhere in the world. Other indulgences are available only in certain jurisdictions such as a diocese, city or country. There are many indulgences that can be gained in Rome or Jerusalem.

Perpetual indulgences are valid at any time. Temporary indulgences are available only on certain days or within certain time periods. An example of this is an indulgence that is granted during Jubilee Years.

Partial vs. Plenary Indulgences

A partial indulgence is one that removes part of the temporal punishment owed by the penitent. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment owed by the penitent. If a person receives a plenary indulgence and then immediately dies, they will go straight to Heaven without any Purgatorial suffering.

In times past, the Church would place a particular value on a partial indulgence, such as "100 days". This meant that by completing the requirements for the indulgence, the penitent had removed "100 days" of their suffering. This was not meant to be construed as a literal value relative to days on Earth. Instead, what this meant was that the suffering removed was equivalent with "100 days" of the ancient canonical penance, which consisted of prayer, good deeds, fasting and alms-giving. This was always a relative value in terms of earthly penance, not purgatorial time. The specific values are no longer given to partial indulgences. They are simply called "partial", and left to God to determine the actual remission.

Conditions for a Plenary Indulgence

In addition to performing the prescribed act of penance to which the plenary indulgence is attached, the penitent must have completed the following 4 requirements:

1. Sacramental confession,
2. Eucharistic Communion
3. Prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.
4. Complete detachment from all sin, including venial sin.

The first 3 conditions must be satisfied within a reasonable amount of time (20 days before or after the act of penance). This requirement used to be 8 days, but in the Jubilee Year, this requirement was relaxed to 20 days by the Apostolic Penitentiary. If any of these requirements is not fulfilled, then the plenary indulgence becomes a partial indulgence.

Some Common Indulgences

Here are some common indulgences that can be obtained at any time. To gain the plenary indulgence associated with each task, the above-mentioned conditions must be fulfilled. There are many more indulgences that can be gained in specific places or at specific times.

Reading of Sacred Scripture

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour.

Recitation of the Marian Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio)

A plenary indulgence is granted, if the Rosary is recited in a church or public oratory or in a family group, a religious Community or pious Association; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances.

"Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of "Hail Marys" with an "Our Father" before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption." (Roman Breviary)

There have been 5 more mysteries added to the rosary, which are the Luminous Mysteries since the publication of the Roman Breviary, bringing the total number of mysteries to 20. The name "Rosary," however, is commonly used in reference to only a set of 5 mysteries or decades focused on a certain theme: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous.

The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:

1. The recitation of one set of 5 decades only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously.
2. The vocal recitation must be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries.
3. In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries.
4. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this devotion is not practiced, the Patriarchs can determine some other prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for those of the Byzantine rite, for example, the Hymn "Akathistos" or the Office "Paraclisis"); to the prayers thus determined are accorded the same indulgences as for the Rosary

Exercise of the Way of the Cross

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who make the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross (Stations of the Cross). The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:

1. The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected. This is generally done by the local bishop at various parishes, cemeteries, or chapels around the diocese.
2. For the erection of the Way of the Cross fourteen crosses are required, to which it is customary to add fourteen pictures or images, which represent the stations of Jerusalem.
3. According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of fourteen pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
4. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the pious exercise is made publicly and if it is not possible for all taking part to go in an orderly way from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their place.

Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence, if they spend at least one half an hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For those belonging to Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gaining of this indulgence.

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it; a plenary indulgence is granted, if the visit lasts for at least one half an hour.
 



Tuesday Ear Tickler: Obama Surrogate Michael Sean Winters Smears the US Bishops

clock December 18, 2012 01:09 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Michael Sean Winters, a critic of many of the Church’s teachings. Winters writes for the National Catholic Reporter, which officially endorsed women priests and called the Church’s teachings on the matter an “injustice”. This week, he has accused the US Bishops of playing politics and accosting them for standing up for religious liberty and against some of the nefarious initiatives of the President and his administration. (Winters’ comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

The President should fix the HHS mandate exemptions because doing so would be good politics for the Democrats, as I argued yesterday. Today, it is necessary, sad but necessary, to consider why President Obama may have a different political calculation and why the U.S. bishops need to look in the mirror when asking how they found themselves in this mess.

The President should fix the HHS mandate because it is a direct violation of our religious freedom. Who cares about politics? If Winters thinks that politics is the primary reason to remove the draconian mandate, he has his heart in the wrong place. This isn’t about strategy, this is about serving God. If you are forced to sin, you are left with either violation of the law or violation of your faith. The bishops found themselves in this mess because 40 years of poor catechesis left 50% of the American Catholic populate with so little understanding of their faith that they voted for a man that stands directly opposed to every major moral stance of the Church.

But, ignore [the achievement of electing the first black President] the bishops did. They greeted the incoming president with a postcard campaign about…..drumroll…the Freedom of Choice Act or FOCA. It mattered little that FOCA had never passed a committee vote in any Congress since it was first devised in the early 1980s as a fundraising device. It mattered little that it was clear the incoming President had bigger fish to fry. No, the bishops wanted to set down a marker and they did. This presidency would be viewed through one lens and one lens only, the pro-life lens. It didn’t matter that in forty-five years since Roe v. Wade, the Republicans had done precious little on abortion and the pro-life movement had become a cheap date for the GOP. Obama was the enemy.

They greeted him with a postcard campaign about the Freedom of Choice Act because he promised that passing it would be his first act in office. Removing all restrictions on abortion is an enormous assault on the morality of the nation. Winters should realize this, but he is more concerned about politics is seems. The pro-life lens is the most important lens. Our society has devolved into moral decay. There are so many fronts that could be opened in the war being waged for souls, but the battle for life is the most important and the most telling of our society. If we insist on allowing the slaughter of our own children, what does that say about our nation? The Republicans have not delivered on the life issue. That we can agree on. The problem, however arises when a candidate like Obama promises to expand the killing by removing restrictions on it. The life issue is not the only issue, but it is the most important. We cannot shift focus away from it until it has been resolved.

This was followed by the bishops’ decision not to support the Affordable Care Act. There were – and are – problems with the ACA. The concern most prominently voiced by the bishops, that the ACA would provide federal funding of abortions, required a very expansive reading of the text. Mind you, sometimes judges do render expansive readings of legislative texts. But, a court in Ohio has ruled that, on its face, the ACA does not permit federal funding of abortion. The bishops were more on target, as we have since learned, in their concern about the lack of statutory conscience exemptions in the law. And, they were undoubtedly correct that the failure to include undocumented immigrants in the law’s provisions was a serious lack. Nonetheless, the bishops seemed shrill and hysterical in their opposition to the ACA.

If Winters’ view is that the bishops are “shrill and hysterical”, what does that say about him and his newspaper whining about women’s ordination? The bishops were standing their ground on religious freedom and the right to life. The NCR was railing against the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. The NCR prints shrill editorials from Obama surrogates castigating the Church for its stance on contraception. Coincidence? This article by Winters only solidifies my view that the NCR is simply a front for the Obama administration to influence wish-washy Catholics. Winters issues light criticism of the President, but like so many other Democratic apologists, he bends over backwards to minimize those criticisms and emphasize Obama’s concern for the poor and equality, even though Obama has stood by while poverty has risen and has stirred the pot of division on nearly every large politically divisive issue. Winters is losing any credibility he had left, as is the NCR. He knows why the Bishops have come out against Obama’s policies. It isn’t because he is a Democrat. It is because his policies are direct attacks on the Catholic Church. If a Republican proposed such evil policies, the Bishops would oppose them too.

The NCR has already been asked by the late Bishop of Kansas City to stop calling itself “Catholic”. They in their self-righteous arrogance have refused. They are a lie at best, and an agent for moral confusion. If you subscribe to the National Catholic Reporter, stop now. You are funding a campaign against the Catholic Church.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for December 18, 2012 to Michael Sean Winters.

Ear Tickler Award - Michael Sean Winters


Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 577-582, 592 – Jesus and the Law

clock December 18, 2012 01:01 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections explore the relationship of Jesus with the Law of the Old Testament. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Contra Faustum”.

I. JESUS AND THE LAW

577 At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he presented God's law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of the New Covenant:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law, until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.329

578 Jesus, Israel's Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail - according to his own words, down to "the least of these commandments".330 He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly.331 On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts.332 This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God's forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James recalls, "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it."333

579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus' time to an extreme religious zeal.334 This zeal, were it not to lapse into "hypocritical" casuistry,335 could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners.336

580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.337 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but "upon the heart" of the Servant who becomes "a covenant to the people", because he will "faithfully bring forth justice".338 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself "the curse of the Law" incurred by those who do not "abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them", for his death took place to redeem them "from the transgressions under the first covenant".339

581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.340 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.341 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people "as one who had authority, and not as their scribes".342 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.343 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old. . . But I say to you... "344 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were "making void the word of God".345

582 Going even further, Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation: "Whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him. . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.). . . What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. . ."346 In presenting with divine authority the definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that accompanied it.347 This was the case especially with the sabbath laws, for he recalls, often with rabbinical arguments, that the sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbour,348 which his own healings did.

IN BRIEF

592 Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf ⇒ Mt 5:17-19) with such perfection (cf ⇒ Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf ⇒ Mt 5:33) and redeemed the transgressions against it (cf ⇒ Heb 9:15).

St. Augustine, in his book “Contra Faustum” (XVII) explains the fulfillment of the law through Jesus.

5. Every one can see the weakness of the argument that Christ could not have said, "Think not that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill," unless He had done something to create a suspicion of this kind. Of course, we grant that the unenlightened Jews may have looked upon Christ as the destroyer of the law and the prophets; but their very suspicion makes it certain that the true and truthful One, in saying that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, referred to no other law than that of the Jews. This is proved by the words that follow: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whosoever shall do and teach them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." This applied to the Pharisees, who taught the law in word, while they broke it in deed. Christ says of the Pharisees in another place, "What they say, that do; but do not after their works: for they say, and do not." (Matthew 23:3) So here also He adds, "For I say unto you, Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;" (Matthew 5:17-20) that is, Unless you shall both do and teach what they teach without doing, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This law, therefore, which the Pharisees taught without keeping it, Christ says He came not to destroy, but to fulfill; for this was the law connected with the seat of Moses in which the Pharisees sat, who because they said without doing, are to be heard, but not to be imitated.

6. Faustus does not understand, or pretends not to understand, what it is to fulfill the law. He supposes the expression to mean the addition of words to the law, regarding which it is written that nothing is to be added to or taken away from the Scriptures of God. From this Faustus argues that there can be no fulfillment of what is spoken of as so perfect that nothing can be added to it or taken from it. Faustus requires to be told that the law is fulfilled by living as it enjoins. "Love is the fulfilling of the law," (Romans 13:10) as the apostle says. The Lord has vouchsafed both to manifest and to impart this love, by sending the Holy Spirit to His believing people. So it is said by the same apostle: "The love of God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." (Romans 5:5) And the Lord Himself says: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." (John 13:35) The law, then, is fulfilled both by the observance of its precepts and by the accomplishment of its prophecies. For "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:7) The law itself, by being fulfilled, becomes grace and truth. Grace is the fulfillment of love, and truth is the accomplishment of the prophecies. And as both grace and truth are by Christ, it follows that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; not by supplying any defects in the law, but by obedience to what is written in the law. Christ's own words declare this. For He does not say, One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till its defects are supplied, but "till all be fulfilled."

Footnotes

329 ⇒ Mt 5:17-19.
330 ⇒ Mt 5:19.
331 Cf. ⇒ Jn 8:46.
332 Cf. ⇒ Jn 7:19; ⇒ Acts 13:38-41; ⇒ 15:10.
333 ⇒ Jas 2:10; cf. ⇒ Gal 3:10; ⇒ 5:3.
334 Cf. ⇒ Rom 10:2.
335 Cf. ⇒ Mt 15:31; ⇒ Lk 11:39-54.
336 Cf ⇒ Is 53:11; ⇒ Heb 9:15.
337 Cf. ⇒ Gal 4:4.
338 ⇒ Jer 31:33; ⇒ Is 42:3, 6.
339 ⇒ Gal 3:13; ⇒ 3:10; ⇒ Heb 9:15.
340 Cf ⇒ Jn 11:28; ⇒ 3:2; ⇒ Mt 22:23-24, ⇒ 34-36.
341 Cf. ⇒ Mt 12:5; ⇒ 9:12; ⇒ Mk 2:23-27; ⇒ Lk 6:6-g; ⇒ Jn 7:22-23.
342 ⇒ Mt 7:28-29.
343 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:1.
344 ⇒ Mt 5:33-34.
345 ⇒ Mk 7:13; cf. ⇒ 3:8.
346 ⇒ Mk 7:18-21; cf. ⇒ Gal 3:24.
347 Cf. ⇒ Jn 5:36; ⇒ 10:25, ⇒ 37-38; ⇒ 12:37.
348 Cf. ⇒ Num 28 9; ⇒ Mt 12:5; ⇒ Mk 2:25-27; ⇒ Lk 13:15-16; ⇒ 14:3-4; ⇒ Jn 7:22-24.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 571-576 – Jesus and Israel

clock December 17, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ relationship with Israel, particularly the Pharisees. Supporting material comes from St. John Chrysostom’s “Sermons on the Gospel of John”.

Article 4

"JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED"

571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all"313 by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.

572 The Church remains faithful to the interpretation of "all the Scriptures" that Jesus gave both before and after his Passover: "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"314 Jesus' sufferings took their historical, concrete form from the fact that he was "rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes", who handed "him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified".315

573 Faith can therefore try to examine the circumstances of Jesus' death, faithfully handed on by the Gospels316 and illuminated by other historical sources, the better to understand the meaning of the Redemption.

Paragraph 1. JESUS AND ISRAEL

574 From the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.317 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners318--some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.319 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.320

575 Many of Jesus' deeds and words constituted a "sign of contradiction",321 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply "the Jews",322 than for the ordinary People of God.323 To be sure, Christ's relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;324 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.325 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God's people: the resurrection of the dead,326 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),327 The custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbour.328

576 In the eyes of many in Israel, Jesus seems to be acting against essential institutions of the Chosen People: - submission to the whole of the Law in its written commandments and, for the Pharisees, in the interpretation of oral tradition; - the centrality of the Temple at Jerusalem as the holy place where God's presence dwells in a special way; - faith in the one God whose glory no man can share.

In his “Sermons on the Gospel of John” (52), St. John Chrysostom comments on the relationship between the Pharisees and Jesus.

John 7:45-46

“Then came the officers to the Chief Priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spoke like this Man.”

1. There is nothing clearer, nothing simpler than the truth, if we deal not perversely; just as (on the other hand) if we deal perversely, nothing is more difficult. For behold, the Scribes and Pharisees, who seemed forsooth to be wiser than other men, being ever with Christ for the sake of plotting against Him, and beholding His miracles, and reading the Scriptures, were nothing profited, but were even harmed; while the officers, who could not claim one of these privileges, were subdued by one single sermon, and they who had gone forth to bind Him, came back bound themselves by wonder. We must not only marvel at their understanding, that they needed not signs, but were taken by the teaching alone; (for they said not, Never man wrought miracles thus, but, Never man spoke thus;) we must not, I say, merely marvel at their understanding, but also at their boldness, that they spoke thus to those that had sent them, to the Pharisees, to His enemies, to men who were doing all with a view to gratify their enmity. The officers, says the Evangelist, came, and the Pharisees said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? To come was a far greater deed than to have remained, for in the latter case they would have been rid of the annoyance of these men, but now they become heralds of the wisdom of Christ, and manifested their boldness in greater degree. And they say not, We could not become of the multitude, for they gave heed unto Him as unto a prophet; but what? Never man spoke as this Man. Yet they might have alleged that, but they show their right feeling. For theirs was the saying not only of men admiring Him, but blaming their masters, because they had sent them to bind Him whom it behooved rather to hear. Yet they had not heard a sermon either, but a short one; for when the long mind is impartial, there is no need of long arguments.

Footnotes

313 ⇒ Heb 9:26.
314 ⇒ Lk 24:26-27, ⇒ 44-45.
315 ⇒ Mk 8:31; ⇒ Mt 20:19.
316 Cf. DV 19.
317 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:6; 14:1.
318 Cf. ⇒ Mt 12:24; ⇒ Mk 2:7, ⇒ 14-17; ⇒ 3:1-6; ⇒ 7:14-23.
319 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:22; ⇒ Jn 8:48; 10:20.
320 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:7; ⇒ Jn 5:18; ⇒ 7:12, ⇒ 52; ⇒ 8:59; ⇒ 10:31, ⇒ 33.
321 ⇒ Lk 2:34.
322 Cf. ⇒ Jn 1:19; ⇒ 2:18; ⇒ 5:10; ⇒ 7:13; ⇒ 9:22; ⇒ 18:12; ⇒ 19:38; ⇒ 20:19.
323 ⇒ Jn 7:48-49.
324 Cf ⇒ Lk 13:31.
325 Cf. ⇒ Lk 7:36; ⇒ 14:1.
326 Cf. ⇒ Mt 22:23-34; ⇒ Lk 20:39.
327 Cf. ⇒ Mt 6:18.
328 Cf. ⇒ Mk 12:28-34.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 554 – 560, 568-570 The Transfiguration and Jesus' Entrance into Jerusalem

clock December 16, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ transfiguration and entrance into Jerusalem. Supporting material comes from a homily given by Pope John Paul II.

A foretaste of the kingdom: the Transfiguration

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised."290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem".293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"294

555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory".295 Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings.296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant;297 The cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."298

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.299

556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection.300 From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. the Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body."301 But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":302

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303

Jesus' ascent to Jerusalem

557 "When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem."304 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem."305

558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"306 When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart's desire: "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes."307

Jesus' messianic entrance into Jerusalem

559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of "his father David".308 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means "Save!" or "Give salvation!"), the "King of glory" enters his City "riding on an ass".309 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.310 and so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God's poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.311 Their acclamation, "Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord",312 is taken up by the Church in the Sanctus of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord's Passover.

560 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church's liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.

IN BRIEF

568 Christ's Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles' faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to the "high mountain" prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: "the hope of glory" (⇒ Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).

569 Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there he would die a violent death because of the opposition of sinners (cf ⇒ Heb 12:3).

570 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifests the coming of the kingdom that the Messiah-King, welcomed into his city by children and the humble of heart, is going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection.

Pope John Paul II in his homily on March 7, 1993 expounded on the meaning of the Transfiguration.

The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus' preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up "to Jerusalem and suffer greatly . . . and be killed and on the third day be raised" (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his "beloved Son" achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples' way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today's reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: "Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life" (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, "has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Tm 1:10).

The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.

Footnotes

290 ⇒ Mt 16:21.
291 Cf. ⇒ Mt 16:22-23; ⇒ 17:23; ⇒ Lk 9:45.
292 Cf. ⇒ Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:16-18.
293 ⇒ Lk 9:31.
294 ⇒ Lk 9:35.
295 ⇒ Lk 24:26.
296 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:27.
297 Cf. Is 42:1.
298 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
299 Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion.
300 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
301 ⇒ Phil 3:21.
302 ⇒ Acts 14:22.
303 St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493; cf. ⇒ Lk 9:33.
304 ⇒ Lk 9:51; cf. ⇒ Jn 13:1.
305 ⇒ Lk 13:33; cf. ⇒ Mk 8:31-33; ⇒ 9:31-32; ⇒ 10:32-34.
306 ⇒ Mt 23:37.
307 ⇒ Lk 19:41-42.
308 ⇒ Lk 1:32; cf. ⇒ Mt 21:1-11; ⇒ Jn 6:15.
309 ⇒ Ps 24:7-10; ⇒ Zech 9:9.
310 Cf. ⇒ Jn 18:37.
311 Cf. ⇒ Mt 21:15-16; cf. ⇒ Ps 8:3; ⇒ Lk 19:38; ⇒ 2:14.
312 Cf. ⇒ Ps 118:26.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 547-553 – The Signs and Keys of the Kingdom of God

clock December 15, 2012 01:04 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the signs and keys of the Kingdom of God. Supporting material comes from Pope St. Gregory the Great’s “Registrum Epistolarum”.

The signs of the kingdom of God

547 Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah.268

548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.269 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.270 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.271 But his miracles can also be occasions for "offence";272 they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.273

549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,274 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,275 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage.276

550 The coming of God's kingdom means the defeat of Satan's: "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."277 Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over "the ruler of this world".278 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ's cross: "God reigned from the wood."279

"The keys of the kingdom"

551 From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission.280 He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and 'sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal."281 They remain associated for ever with Christ's kingdom, for through them he directs the Church:

As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.282

552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;283 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."284 Christ, the "living Stone",285 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.286

553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."287 The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep."288 The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

In his “Registrum Epistolarum” (Book VII, Letter 40), Pope St. Gregory the Great discusses the Chair of Peter, and the authority given to the Papacy stemming from the charge Jesus gave to Peter concerning the “Keys of the kingdom”.

Your most sweet Holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, Prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. And indeed I acknowledge myself to be unworthy, not only in the dignity of such as preside, but even in the number of such as stand. But I gladly accepted all that has been said, in that he has spoken to me about Peter's chair who occupies Peter's chair. And, though special honor to myself in no wise delights me, yet I greatly rejoiced because you, most holy ones, have given to yourselves what you have bestowed upon me. For who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the Prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Petrus from petra. And to him it is said by the voice of the Truth, To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). And again it is said to him, And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren (xxii. 32). And once more, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me? Feed my sheep (John 21:17). Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist. He himself established the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years.

Footnotes

268 ⇒ Acts 2:22; cf. ⇒ Lk 7:18-23.
269 cf. ⇒ Jn 5:36; ⇒ 10:25, ⇒ 38.
270 Cf. ⇒ Mk 5:25-34; ⇒ 10:52; etc.
271 Cf. ⇒ Jn 10:31-38.
272 ⇒ Mt 11:6.
273 Cf. ⇒ Jn 11:47-48; ⇒ Mk 3:22.
274 Cf. ⇒ Jn 6:5-15; ⇒ Lk 19:8; ⇒ Mt 11:5.
275 Cf. ⇒ Lk 12 13-14; ⇒ Jn 18:36.
276 Cf. ⇒ Jn 8:34-36.
277 ⇒ Mt 12:26, ⇒ 28.
278 ⇒ Jn 12:31; cf. ⇒ Lk 8:26-39.
279 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.
280 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:13-19.
281 ⇒ Lk 9:2[ETML:C/].
282 ⇒ Lk 22:29-30.
283 Cf ⇒ Mk 3:16; 9:2; ⇒ Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.
284 ⇒ Mt 16:18.
285 I Pt 2:4.
286 Cf. ⇒ Lk 22:32.
287 ⇒ Mt 16:19.
288 ⇒ Jn 21:15-17; Cf. ⇒ 10:11.
289 Cf. ⇒ Mt 18:18.



How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory

clock December 14, 2012 20:53 by author John |
Holy Mass for Souls in Purgatory
The Holy Mass is a powerful way to aid the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

This is the fourth article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Who are the Souls in Purgatory?

The souls in Purgatory are known as the Church Suffering. They are called “Poor” souls because they are separated from the Beatific Vision due to unsatisfied debt due to the sins they committed while they were on Earth. While their sins may have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession, they may not have made proper penance for them, and so any temporal punishment due for those sins must be endured in Purgatory. 

The souls in Purgatory are also known as the “Holy Souls” for two main reasons. First, they are no longer able to sin. Secondly, they are assured of their salvation, though they must be purified before they can stand in the presence of God for eternity.

The Church Calls Us to Help the Souls in Purgatory

The teaching of the Church is clear throughout the ages about our duty to help the souls in Purgatory. They are our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. They lived virtuous lives and ultimately chose to love God. They deserve our support in reaching the reward of Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear our responsibility for the poor souls and the efficacy of our prayers for them:

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.609

How Can We Pray for the Souls in Purgatory?

The most efficacious way to help the souls in Purgatory is to have masses said for them. In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the value of prayer, especially the Holy Mass in helping the souls in Purgatory:

The Eucharistic celebration, in which we proclaim that Christ has died and risen, and will come again, is a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified. Celebrating the memorial of our salvation strengthens our hope in the resurrection of the body and in the possibility of meeting once again, face to face, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In this context I wish, together with the synod fathers, to remind all the faithful of the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God. A rediscovery of the eschatological dimension inherent in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored, will help sustain us on our journey and comfort us in the hope of glory (cf Rom 5:2; Ti 2:13) (Sacramentum Caritatis 32).

In addition to masses , the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross are very powerful ways to assist the Church Suffering. These prayers all have indulgences attached to them, and as we will see, indulgences are a tool we can utilize to help the poor souls.

Fasting, Almsgiving, and Offering of Our Sacrifices for the Souls in Purgatory

Aside from prayer, there are a variety of ways in which we can assist the souls in Purgatory. Fasting, almsgiving, and the offering of our sacrifices to God in atonement for their sins are excellent ways to help them. Many of us suffer physical or emotional pains, which can be offered for the poor souls. This suffering is united with the Passion of Christ and when applied to the poor souls can cause their release and entrance into Heaven. 

Indulgences Can be Gained on Behalf of the Souls in Purgatory

A specific indulgence is given in the "Enchiridion of Indulgences", which is specifically for the souls in Purgatory. Here is the quote: 

13. Visit to a Cemetery (Coemeterii visitatio)

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial. 

In order for the indulgence to be plenary, you must meet the following conditions in addition to praying at the cemetery for the souls...

1. Sacramental confession within “about twenty days” of the actual day of the Plenary Indulgence.

2. Eucharistic Communion on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

4. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.

In addition to this specific indulgence, any indulgence can be offered for the good of the souls in Purgatory if we specifically make the request that the graces be applied to them.

Penance for Souls that are Not in Purgatory

Graces are never wasted. God's infinite justice assures this. If a soul is in Heaven and we pray, fast or do any other penance for them, those specific graces that would have helped the soul out of Purgatory are bestowed on other souls in need of them. The soul may also benefit from those graces in Heaven, growing yet closer to God. St. Thomas Aquinas called this "accidental glory". The souls in Heaven can grow and change (they are mutable), though they cannot depart from the Beatific Vision. 

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P., the noted theologian, Thomistic scholar, and teacher of the future Pope John Paul II, commented on this concept in his book, "The One God":

All creatures, as regards their accidental being, are mutable by an intrinsic power. Even in the angels there is mutability as regards their choice of either good or evil. All were created good and in grace, and some freely merited their eternal happiness, whereas others sinned. In fact, the blessed are capable of receiving new accidental illuminations and of acquiring accidental glory. Finally, there is mutability in the angels by way of virtual contact, inasmuch as they can act in this place or that, and do not always act in the same place.

The State of Grace

You should be in the state of grace before helping the souls in Purgatory. The Enchiridion of Indulgences states that you must be in the state of grace in order to earn an indulgence for yourself. Theologians have expressed mixed opinions on whether you must be in the state of grace in order to earn indulgences for the souls in Purgatory.  

Whether or not our prayers are efficacious for the souls in Purgatory when we are not in the state of grace should be a secondary concern for us. Our first concern should be with gaining and maintaining the state of grace for our own good. When you are in the state of grace, you can focus your energy on others, including the souls in Purgatory.

Eternal Gratitude

The souls released from Purgatory are eternally grateful to us for assisting them in attaining eternal joy in Heaven. They are part of the Church Triumphant, those blessed souls who are nearest to God, and have a special intimate connection with Him. Their prayers are very powerful, and they will pray for us in gratitude for our care for them. The Universal Church is indeed one in Christ, praying for one another and thus helping each other when we are in most need.