Focusing on indulgences is distracting

I hope that Frank Wessling’s cogently argued editorial on indulgences (March 26, 2009) does not do too much harm by implanting the image of God as “the amenable accountant” and of Jesus as “our best lawyer.” These images on which indulgences are based distort our understanding of the unconditional yearning God has for us.

God’s is the universal outreach Jesus shows in the parable of the father running to greet his prodigal son. Indeed, we need the image of Jesus moving the Emmaus travelers to shout, “Were not our hearts burning within us as he explained the Scriptures to us!”

Jesus was not discussing indulgences. More likely, his remarks included Jeremiah’s summary of God’s New Covenant, “I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.” Then, freed from distractions about indulgences, we can focus on responding to Jesus in those foreclosed upon, without health insurance, in families left disorganized. When we want to paint the mural of “God so loving the world,” focusing upon indulgences does not even put our ladder against the correct wall.

James Magee

New Rochelle, NY

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