Today we inaugurate our Shrine of Divine Mercy at St. Edward Church in Little Rock. This shrine is to be a place of pilgrimage, a place of eucharistic adoration inaugurated in this time of national Eucharistic Revival and a place to experience divine mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and through the reception of indulgences at this shrine, which is one thing that sets this shrine apart from all other places of worship in our diocese and thus making it a place of pilgrimage.
In our Eucharistic Revival events in northwest Arkansas last Saturday and here in Little Rock yesterday, we reflected on the great gift of the Eucharist — the true body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus which we receive in Communion during Mass and worship in adoration outside of Mass. We also reflected on God’s great mercy for sinners and his forgiveness of the guilt of our sins in the sacrament of penance.
But what about indulgences? That’s something few of us really understand. Since indulgences are received by pilgrims who come to this shrine and meet certain conditions, I thought it might help to speak about this today.
When we sin, we acquire guilt and are liable to punishment, both eternal punishment in the case of mortal sins and temporal punishment in the case of all sins. The sacrament of reconciliation removes the guilt of sin for those who are truly repentant and the liability of eternal punishment related to mortal sin.
But since every sin, including venial sin, is a turning away from God, all sins produce harmful effects. These spiritual wounds remain even after the guilt has been forgiven. For instance, in the case of marital infidelity, the guilt is forgiven in confession, but the spiritual healing — and the healing of that relationship — is going to be a long-term proposition, even if the spouse is completely unaware. If this healing and purification of the “temporal punishment due to sin” is not complete in this life, it can continue in purgatory. So, in confession the guilt of sin is forgiven immediately but the spiritual healing just begins.
Now here is where it gets complicated. The “treasury of the Church” is the infinite value which Christ’s merits as our redeemer have before the Father, plus all the prayers and good works of the saints. Jesus gave to Peter and the apostles the power of binding and loosing, meaning that the Church has the authority to administer the benefits of these merits to those under its jurisdiction in consideration of prayer and other pious works undertaken by the faithful, such as pilgrimage to our shrine of Divine Mercy, reducing in individual cases the temporal punishment due to sin in proportion to the fervor and sincerity of that person, even in cases where the healing process is still ongoing. This indulgence can be plenary or partial.
The conditions that the Church places on receiving a plenary indulgence at our Shrine of Divine Mercy are as follows:
One last detail, we the living can assist those who died in a state of grace but are still undergoing healing and purification in purgatory not only by helping them with our prayers but also interceding for them by obtaining indulgences on their behalf. There is a whole lot more that can be said about indulgences, but these are the basics.
Today we inaugurate our Shrine of Divine Mercy on the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord poured out for our salvation, source of eternal life and sacrament of God’s great mercy. I pray that the Lord will use this shrine to bring mercy and healing to all who enter its doors.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily June 11 for the inauguration of the Diocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy in Little Rock.
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