The Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins
This is step 13: The Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins. We know that Jesus picked twelve apostles from among his disciples. He told them to go into the whole world to spread the good news of what he'd been teaching them. He also picked Peter to be their leader. This made the apostles the first bishops of the Church and it made Peter the first pope of the Church.
We learned in our last lesson that in order for the Church to be the one true church that Jesus started, it must actually have four distinct marks. The marks needed for the one true church are: to be one; to be holy; to be catholic; and to be apostolic. There's only one church today that has all four of those marks. Many people don't really understand or don't really know the one church that has all of those marks is the Catholic Church.
Today's lesson is about the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins. In our past lessons, we have talked a bit about the Apostles Creed and how that fits into our faith today. In this section of the Apostles Creed, we say, “I believe in the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of sins.” Let's learn: why we believe in the communion of saints; what is the communion of saints; and how and why are we forgiven of our sins.
Here are some questions for you to think about during this lesson.
What did the early Christians do with the possessions that they owned?
Why did they do this?
Why do we usually receive Holy Communion together at Mass?
Let's get started with a reading from the Bible. This will be from The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2: 42-45.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
After Jesus ascended into heaven all of his followers kept loving him and kept obeying his teachings. All of his followers kept meeting often, usually at least every week, to learn all about what Jesus had been teaching them while he was here on earth. This meeting that they had is what we call the Mass. During Mass, they learned all about what Jesus had taught them and they received the most holy Eucharist at communion. All of Jesus's followers shared everything they had with each other. This wasn't just everything that they owned, it was also all of their spiritual goods. Actually, the word communion means sharing.
The more that we love each other in Christ the more that we will want to share all that we have with each other. If we love one another very much we don't want to only share everything that we can see, we also want to share the things that we can't see, our love, our attention, and our dedication and loyalty. God has given us many graces and spiritual riches. The more that we love each other, the more that we will share in the graces and the spiritual riches that God has given each and every one of us. The more that we share what we have, the more that we will receive from others.
Jesus wants us all to be saints. A saint is someone who loves and follows Jesus with all of his heart and all of his soul. We normally think of saints as those who live a very holy life and are now in heaven with Jesus. Of course, that is absolutely true. When we go to Mass and we have communion we're not just sharing communion with those holy people that are here on earth. At Mass, we are also sharing all of the graces that we receive from God with those in heaven - the saints. Another great thing that we do at Mass is to pray for each other. An even greater thing that happens is that the saints who are in heaven are also praying for us. They're praying for you and they're praying for me.
One of the greatest things that we can do is to share Holy Communion with each other. Eating at the same table with one another is a really great sign of friendship. It is always great when you are invited to dinner with a friend or if you have friends come over to your house for dinner. When we share the Holy Eucharist at Mass, at God's table, this is a sign that we not only love God very much but that we also love each other.
God did command us to love him and to love our neighbor. All the saints in heaven and all the holy people here on earth are also part of that communion at God's table. We are helping each other as best as we can to make it to heaven. The saints are in heaven praying every day to help you and I get to heaven. You can actually say we're all in this together. It's a great comfort to me that all the holy people that ever lived, who are in heaven, are actually praying for me and for you. One day I hope I get to meet them.
As we learned in previous lessons everyone who lives a holy life here on earth and dies without mortal sin on their soul will go to heaven. None of us are perfect. Not even those who have lived a holy life and who have died without mortal sin. God never did ask us and he still does not ask us today to be perfect. All of the holy people who died without mortal sin but are not perfect, which of course is everyone except Jesus and Mary, will go to heaven absolutely positively most definitely. Jesus made that promise to us and he died on the cross for that very reason.
We understand that people who have committed sins throughout their life but who died in a state of grace will go to heaven, however, they need to be perfectly clean before they enter the paradise of heaven. In order to get perfectly clean, you may send your car through a car wash or detail shop or your laundry into the laundromat. We will actually go to a place called purgatory. This is the place that we will go to have our souls perfectly cleaned to be ready before we go through the Gates of Heaven. All the people who have died who are in purgatory are being cleaned right now before they make it to heaven. They are very close to heaven. They will certainly make it to heaven one day that, is God’s promise. The communion of saints includes them as well. The communion of saints is all of the holy people here on earth who are loving each other and are loving God, all the people in heaven, and all of those who are very close to being in heaven while they are in purgatory.
We can pray for each other here on earth and we should, however, the people in purgatory can't actually pray for themselves. We can however and we should pray for all of those who are in purgatory. When I say the rosary I try to often ask, as part of my intentions during the Rosary, for all of those who are in purgatory. I pray that they will be able to enter heaven very soon.
Part of the Apostles Creed that we are talking about today says that we believe in the forgiveness of sins, and we do. We're going to learn a lot more about the forgiveness of sins in a future chapter but basically, the forgiveness of sins in the Apostles Creed means that God has given the Church through Jesus Christ the power to forgive our sins. Remember while Jesus was here on earth he gave the power to forgive sins to his apostles. That power and authority have been handed down throughout the last two thousand years to the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church today. Let's read a little bit more from the Bible to learn more about the communion of saints.
This reading is from 1st Corinthians, chapter 12: 12-26:
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
Here's another reading that will show our unity and our desire to share with each other by receiving Holy Communion together. This reading is also from 1st Corinthians, chapter 10: 16-17.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
So do you have any questions for me?
Student: Christ gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. Is this true?
Yes, that is absolutely true. We will learn later that Jesus told the apostles this: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” When Jesus said this to the apostles, this is when he actually gave them the power to forgive our sins.
Student: Is it true that the priests today no longer have that power?
No, that is false. The priests today do have the power to forgive sins today just like the apostles did. This power is been passed down throughout the two thousand years. That is one of the greatest things about the Catholic Church. All the powers that Jesus gave the apostles have been passed down throughout the years to the bishops and the priests of today.
Student: Is the communion of saints only for those in heaven?
No, not at all. Remember the communion of saints are all the people who are living holy lives here on earth, all the saints who have died and have gone to heaven, and all those who have died in a state of grace but who are not perfectly clean and are waiting for purification in purgatory.
Student: What authority did God give to the Church to do with sins?
God gave the authority to forgive sins to his Church.
Student: What did the early followers of the Church do with their earthly and spiritual goods?
The early followers shared their earthly and spiritual goods with each other. We are asked to share what we have with each other including our time, talents, and our money. That's why we give to the poor and why we give at the Church. We should also share what we can do with others, which is our talents.
I think it is a great idea to read right now from the Apostles Creed once again. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”
During these first thirteen lessons, we have covered almost everything in the Apostles Creed. The only thing that we have left to talk about is the resurrection and life everlasting. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. If you remember from an earlier lesson, he rose again on Easter Sunday. The rising of Jesus is the resurrection, and the resurrection is what will give us everlasting life in heaven.