Strengthen your relationship with Jesus, practice your faith
By Bishop Michael O. Jackels
The Year of Faith is about strengthening our relationship with Jesus and the practice of our Catholic Faith. Pope Benedict identified one way to do this: by making more real our sense of belonging to the universal church family.
Faith leads us to friendship with Jesus, who leads us to his family, the church, which we experience mostly in our parish. But our church family also includes Catholics in our diocese and all over the globe, as well as the saints in Heaven and the poor souls in Purgatory.
And the badge of membership in this church family, according to Saint Ambrose, is love for each other. We each (including the saints and the poor souls) bear a share of responsibility to continue the mission of Jesus and to care for each other’s well-being.
For example, with regard to the saints, while there is no service we can offer them, we call upon them for their intercession. The poor souls, on the other hand, cannot offer us a service, but there is one we can render them.
The bible teaches that nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27). Some of us may still need, after death, before entering Heaven, to be purged of the temporal punishment due our past and forgiven sins. Purgatory is the name given to this final purification.
Temporal punishment? Jesus’ mercy takes away eternal punishment due to sins. But justice demands that we make amends for the disorder caused by our sins; this is called temporal (not eternal) punishment.
Let us say that in anger you broke my window. You afterwards repented and asked pardon. I forgive you, but justice demands that you make amends by replacing my window – temporal punishment.
Temporal punishment is why the priest in Confession gives us a penance, and why we practice penance and works of mercy as part of our Christian life. If we have not satisfied justice during earthly life, then before entering Heaven we need to undergo the final purification of Purgatory.
And just as others can chip in to help pay for the window you broke, so we can help the poor souls in Purgatory satisfy temporal punishment that justice might still demand for past and forgiven sins.
We can serve the well-being of the poor souls by praying to God that their final purification be quickened: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
The best prayer we can offer is of course Holy Mass. We can make the eternal rest of the faithful departed our intention at Mass, or ask a priest to make it his (when we do that it is customary to give the priest a five dollar stipend, though neither the gift nor the amount is required).
What will you do in this Year of Faith to make real your sense of belonging to the church family in your parish, the diocese, all over the globe, Heaven and in Purgatory? What will you do to bear a share of responsibility to continue the mission of Jesus and for each other’s well-being?