Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Glory of One Body - Homily for the 3rd Sunday in OT

We hear in the second reading a discourse about the body and its many parts. Paul is writing to the Corinthians. And he is not writing simply about the human body, but the Church. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. And we who are baptized are baptized into this Mystical Body. Each of us, then, are parts of this body—just like a hand and a foot—and just like a hand and a foot, each of us is needed! We are important to the functioning of this body, the Church.

We know this in our Sunday Mass here. So often at Mass, we are concerned about our prayers, and what we need, individually—but, the reality is, right now, each one of us is doing something for others around us: our presence here is strengthening the faith of those around us. If you have been at a parish where it is empty, you know that it can be difficult to keep faith. Therefore, we have effects on people whether we intend to or not and whether we know it or not. Right now, you are having an effect on people just by being here. You are strengthening the faith of others around you, showing that this faith is worth spending our time on.

If I were to lose my eye, I could still function, of course. But, I would function deficiently—I would be missing something and the body would be affected. We feel, therefore, the absence of those who are not here, those who have fallen away—the body is affected.

Thus, when we attend Mass, it isn’t just for me to get something out of Mass, but I am also choosing to give something to others: by our being here, I can strengthen another’s faith.

*          *          *

That all said, we can summarize the second reading: as a body, the Church, we are all connected.

When we do good, all the members of the body benefit. When we do bad, all of us are affected by it.

Have you ever stubbed your toe or shin on a coffee table? Or had the invigorating experience of stepping on a Lego in bare feet? It hurts! Now, it’s not your hand or your head that hurts, but it’s your foot. But yet the entire body goes Ow! We know, then, that one member is in sin or suffering, that we cannot excuse ourselves from the member that is hurting—we have a responsibility to help that person: we should see it as our duty as one body to not only have empathy, but also to assist—like blood to a wound, grace to the body to help them.

When we do good too the whole body—the Church, the community—is affected.

I know this personally through one of my friends from grad school. She was very inspiring and prayerful and one day she let us know that she was going to enter the Nashville Dominicans. She gave her life entirely to Christ. Me and my friends were inspired by this—and it got me to think: how am I giving myself to God?

My friends also began to think. One of them became a priest, another became a sister, couples were married—it was like dominoes. My friend’s yes resulted in a wave of goodness and holiness that has changed my life and others. And to think: she has no idea that I’m talking about her right now—that her yes may just be affecting you: you who she has never met!

Do we ever really realize the effects that our good decisions make in people’s lives? Of how far-reaching our decisions really go?

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But let us be honest: not all of us choose the good. We sometimes choose the bad. And we don’t realize how far those bad effects go.

This year, a year of “favor of the Lord” is the Year of Mercy. A year where, if we realize that we have fallen away from the Body, the Church, and are in need of healing because of sin—that we can be healed. This healing comes through Confession.

And, taking what we have just said, our healing there in the confessional doesn’t just affect us—but it helps bring healing to the whole Body!

We do need healing. A few weeks ago, I hurt my ribs pretty badly (I slipped on some ice). The doctor at the urgent care said it would be wise for me to avoid playing sports for a couple of months. Being hurt doesn’t feel good—I need healing.

And yet, I also know—as those of you who are more “seasoned” know—that our injuries from our youth have effects in our body in older age. My ankles, so often turned and hurt in soccer, although healed, will never be quite the same.

In the confessional, Our Lord heals us. He refashions us back to the Body and heals our spiritual wounds. But… there is some reality that things aren’t going to be the same again. The Body still feels the effects of our sins. While I am forgiven, the effects of my bad decisions continue.

This causes us to lament. And yes, it should—that the body will not be the same until glorified.

However, in this Year of Mercy, we are invited not only to be healed, but also our Lord wants to bestow His glory and His grace to help us with the effects of our sins.

You see, in justice, we owe God for the effects of our sins. So, while we are forgiven, we still have to repay God for the effects of our sins. This we owe Him in justice.

*          *          *

But how do we pay Him back for the effects of our sins?

This is where we do penance. We make reparation for our sins—this is what penance is. Through works of Mercy; through prayer; through uniting our sufferings to Jesus and offering them to the Father in love, just as Jesus did in love. Love, after all, covers a multitude of sins.

If during our life here on earth we do not pay God back what we owe Him in justice, we will pay Him back in purgatory, where we will “pay back the last penny” (Lk 12:59).

There is one more way: God gives us a special grace, a special gift of indulgence. This is a special gift of His mercy. What is this “indulgence”?

When Jesus suffered—and also, the saints who have gone before us united to Him—our Father receives those good works of love and treasures them in His heart. This treasure of love is an ocean of mercy whose depth is greater than the weight of all of man’s sins.

All of us can come to the Father, therefore, and request to receive from this treasury of grace so as to pay for what we owe God in justice. This is part of Jesus’ bestowing of The Keys of heaven to Peter when Jesus said, “Whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18; cf Lk 10:34ff). The Church, therefore, is given the keys by which this treasury is opened and God’s mercy is bestowed.

A special gift of this mercy is called a partial or plenary indulgence.

(You may think: didn’t we get rid of these in the 1500s? Actually, no. The problem in the 1500s was “simony”—that is, the selling of indulgences, as though one could buy heaven. We don’t believe you can buy heaven—but we do believe that you can ask for it. And God, in His loving and generous plan of mercy, makes the means available for us to receive heaven! He only wants us to ask).

*          *          *

Ok, so a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence is where ALL of what we owe God in justice is paid and wiped away.

In this Year of Mercy, there are many ways that you can receive a Plenary Indulgence. They are:

Ø  Making a pious visit to a place of pilgrimage (even if that place is local: for example, the Carmelite Monastery on Clayton Road; or one of the Basilicas in St. Louis);
Ø  Visiting a homebound/imprisoned person as though they were Jesus;
Ø  Fasting for a day/abstaining for meat and giving the sum of money for that food to the poor;

This may be scandalous to us—that what we owe God could be so easily paid. But this shows how much God loves us—and also the value of the treasures that are available to us! Jesus and the saints have suffered for you to win these graces.

And to think: not only can we receive these graces, but we can also "store up treasures in heaven" (Mt 6:20) for those who will come after us. Yes, your sufferings now may just be winning grace for those who will come after you-- and possibly centuries after you-- and so bring them to heaven!

Again: do we ever really know how far-reaching are the good effects of our good decisions?

Jesus Himself is the head of the body who is already in heaven—He is drawing us there!

And even when there isn’t a Year of Mercy, many plenary indulgences are available. For example:

Ø  Eucharistic Adoration for at least half an hour;
Ø  Praying the Rosary in the parish church or with the family at home;
Ø  Reading Sacred Scripture for at least half an hour

All of these carry a plenary indulgence with them!

You see, Our Father doesn’t just want to heal the body—He wants to glorify it! He wants to make it new!

And not just for the Body here on earth, but the Body in purgatory—for those that died still owing God.

You see, we can receive a plenary indulgence and ask God to use it not for us, but for our family and friends who have died. Or for a soul in purgatory that desperately needs someone to pay back what he owes. We can do that—and it has eternal effects!

You have a job to do! Bring people out of purgatory by your prayers and sufferings! This is why we have Masses for the dead too: not simply to remember a person, but to pray for them and to offer the Mass as payment for what they owe! Glorify them, Lord!

This is what is so profound about the Catholic faith: we not only seek redemption (we do), but also the glorification of the Body which is the Church in all her members. God has given us a participation in that; for we are one body, one body in Jesus Christ!

General Requirements to Receive a Plenary Indulgence:

1)   Do the work of the indulgence (see examples in homily above)
2)   The person must have received Holy Communion within 20 days (before or after) the work of the indulgence;
3)   The person must have received Reconciliation within 20 days (before or after) the work of the indulgence;
4)   The person must offer prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope). Saying the Our Father, the Hail Mary, or the Creed is sufficient;
5)   The person must have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
6)   There is a limit: only one per day*
7)   Indulgences can only be applied to one’s self. However, they can be given to another but only when that person has died.

* Some Specifics When Receiving Two or More Indulgences
on Days in Close Proximity
(for example: when spending ½ hour in adoration on successive days)

1.    Only one (1) sacramental confession is required for multiple indulgences when those indulgences are being received within twenty (20) days of each other;

2.    A person must receive Holy Communion once per every indulgence to be received—and this can be done any time in the next twenty (20) days;

3.    Similarly, a person must recite the prayers for the Pope once per every indulgence to be received—this can be done any time in the next twenty (20) days.


Or HERE for more reading on Indulgences.

Or HERE for a series of articles to help you defend the doctrine.

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