Saturday, May 30, 2015

Indulge Me

I have been Catholic most of my life however the topic of Indulgences is something I never really thought much about. Until this year, the topic of indulgences never really came up. The only time that I thought about indulgences in the past was after reading through one of my grandma's Pre-Vatican II prayer books. After each prayer, it would say how many indulgences a person would receive after saying the said prayer. I thought that was a little odd! After all, shouldn't we be doing spiritual acts out of love for God and not just to gain an indulgence?!

This year, the topic of indulgences has come up multiple times among Protestants I know, who are considering Catholicism. Also, a group I belong to at my church had a discussion about indulgences recently. These things have provided an opportunity for me to look into the topic more closely.

The Catholic Church teaches that we can repent and ask for forgiveness of our sins but often the effect of the sin on our soul is still there and we need to be purified. It is not too hard to comprehend when you think about the emotional wounds we receive when we sin or when someone sins against us. When we receive purification we also receive healing. 

Another example or analogy would be if you stole something, you can ask for forgiveness but you still should give the item you stole back. Spiritual acts or acts of penance can help purify us of the effects of sin here on earth or for someone else who is in Purgatory. The official definition of an indulgence according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is:
The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. A properly disposed member of the Christian faithful can obtain an indulgence under prescribed conditions through the help of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority of the treasure of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary if it removes all punishment (1471).
One reason people have a problem with indulgences is because there were abuses in the middle ages concerning them. Corrupt members of the clergy would sell indulgences, however the Church ended up condemning this act. One stipulation for even receiving an indulgence is that you have to have the right heart attitude. So, I was correct in thinking that you should not be doing a certain spiritual act just to receive an indulgence but primarily out of love for God and to draw closer to him.

It is ironic that some people have a problem with indulgences the Church offers but they have no problem being indulged by the things of the world. It is getting harder and harder to even tell the Christians from the unbelievers because so many Christians have given in to indulging the spirit of this age. Some Christians have no problem indulging in greed, excessive technology, premarital and homosexual acts, abortion, and consumerism to name a few. It is becoming harder and harder to even be an integral part of society without agreeing or partaking in these and other worldly things. 

The spirit of this age is pervasive! It is nearly impossible to function in society without the latest technology. It is becoming harder and harder to buy anything without supporting abortion or slave labor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for businesses to sell goods without agreeing with gay marriage or providing abortificient drugs. It is nearly impossible to buy food that hasn't been stripped of it's nutrients and contaminated by pesticides because of unconcerned corporations. (It reminds me of Revelations 13:17.)

The good news however is there is another way! God is calling and even beckoning us..."Come away with me, my beloved! Leave this world behind! I know you like to be indulged! Here, accept my indulgences! I offer you life and life abundantly! All you have to do is take up your cross and follow me! My cross will bring you peace and joy overflowing! You are worth more than all this world has to offer! There is nothing you could give up, that I won't make up for 100 fold in the age to come!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Get Ready for Rain!

It is easy to look at the state of the world and get discouraged and distracted. It would seem as if the devil is triumphing. It is often easier to lose faith and just focus on circumstances. However, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more - Romans 5:12. I believe God would have us look beyond the evil forces at work around us and focus on him, his beauty, grace and goodness.

Imagine it is a beautiful, clear day. The sun is shining, there is a soft, cool breeze and you are canoeing along a beautiful river. You are taking in the beauty of God's creation and through this experience, you encounter him. This encounter brings you much joy. Then out of the corner of your eye you start to notice an alligator on the bank. Then you notice a couple more in the water. Instead of losing peace and getting distracted, you decide to continue to focus on God's beautiful creation and abide in joy. Ultimately that is what God is asking us to do in our everyday life and in this hour. Even though the storms of life rage, the waves are coming up over the boat and the world seems to be overrun by evil, we are called to abide and even rest in him.

This past Sunday's Gospel reading was from John 15 about the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine and we are called to be branches that bear fruit. The fruit we bear is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). We bear this fruit when we stay connected to and focus on Jesus.

We are currently in a season of preparation. God is preparing his people for the times that are coming. He wants us to be able to stand even in the midst of adversity. He is preparing us to help bring in a harvest of souls when chaos ensues upon the earth. People are going to be looking for answers and we need to be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us - 1 Peter 3:15.

Knowing the signs of the times
In 1998, while in prayer, I saw an image of Paddington Bear. He had his little raincoat, rain hat, and rain boots on and I felt like the Lord said, "Get ready for rain!" This was his way of telling me that he had plans to pour out his Holy Spirit in an unprecedented way! I do not think it is a coincidence that a new Paddington Bear movie was released the beginning of this year. I believe it is going to happen soon!

Currently we are in a season where Jesus is calling us to himself and leading all his "sheep" through the sheep gate. 
"But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice." - John 10:2-4
Jesus entered through the gate and is holding the gate open for his people to go through. Once this process is complete, he will walk in front and there will be a lot more clarity and Kingdom manifestations. It will be a lot easier to know what he is doing and to hear his voice. Miracles will be more prevalent!

Here is another analogy to describe the season we are currently in:  Imagine you are standing in ankle deep water. The sun is behind you, reflecting on the water. You see something shiny on the bottom but because the sun is behind you, you can not tell what it is, due to the reflection and sun rays bouncing off the water.

These are exciting times! We are about to enter a season where there is going to be a lot more clarity because the Son will be out in front so to speak. What we will see, others in the past have longed to see! Now is the time to get ready!