December 12, 2020, Pope Francis granted plenary indulgences to Catholics worldwide who:
- “Prepare[d] an altar or place of prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe at home.
- “Watch[ed] a livestream or televised Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on 12 December ‘actively participating…with devotion and with exclusive attention to the Eucharist’
- “Complete[d] the usual conditions for an indulgence by praying for the Pope’s intentions, being in a state of grace after confession, attending a full Mass and receiving Communion.1”
This was a decision made by Pope Francis December 6, and announced by Cardinal Carlos Augiar Retes of Mexico City2. December 12, 2020 marked the 125th anniversary of the coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin of Mary for Catholics in Mexico1. And typically, up to 15 million Catholics would travel to the Guadalupe complex the first two weeks of December, but for the sake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the complex has been closed. Thus, instead of Catholics entering the complex, Our Lady of Guadelupe, “wants to go to [their] house[s],” said Cardinal Aguiar2.
Now, let us tease this apart.
What is an indulgence?
As per An Advanced Catechism indulgences come in two flavors, plenary and partial and is defined as,
“the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin”(114)3.
They are supposed to shorten the time a person who is good, but not fully cleansed from sin spends in purgatory4.
But, God grants us full remission of sin in Jesus Christ. For, “[if] the Son therefore shall make [us] free, [w]e shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus cannot help but cleanse completely. In fact, Peter, on the day of Pentecost beseeches the people saying,
“[r]epent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”(Acts 2:38).
Now, indulgences can be granted for the living and the dead, and Our Lady of Guadalupe was supposed to be going to person’s houses.
But, the Bible tells us that
“the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun”(Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6).
Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church redounds their ability to remit sin to, “applying…the merits of Jesus Christ, and the superabundant satisfactions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints” (Advanced Catechism 115, 116)3. And the latter refers to,
“the store of good works and satisfactions of the saints, over and above what is need for their salvation”(An Advanced Catechism 116)3.
But, God reminds to, “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” salvation is an individual experience (Philippians 2:12). Moreover, the LORD, in speaking of the sealed fate of the house of Israel declares,
“[t]hough these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the LORD GOD”(Ezekiel 14:14).
In other words, the good works of the righteous men Noah, Daniel, and Job, cannot be applied to a person that has repeatedly rejected the wooing of the Holy Spirit. The rather, God promises that
“[i]f we confess our sins, [H]e is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).
For Jesus, “ever liveth to make intercession for [us]” (Hebrews 7:25). Mary and the saints are dead, and cannot intercede on our behalves, because there is only, “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Friends, Jesus is all we need to be saved; “in [H]im dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). And,
“by grace are [w]e saved through faith; and that not of [o]urselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8, 9).
This was the cry of Martin Luther, when he nailed the 95 Theses Against Indulgences on the castle church of Wittenberg, Halloween 1517. Three days ago plenary indulgences were offered to Catholics worldwide, but, Jesus spent three days in the grave to grant us complete and free salvation (Acts 10:40, 43). Let’s rely on Jesus’ merits and not our own.
- An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice. United States, J.B. Oink, 1922. https://www.google.com/books/edition/An_Advanced_Catechism_of_Catholic_Faith/BZg3AQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1