85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”
The penitential canons were the laws of the church established long ago. These were the laws having to do with the penitence that needed to be offered in order to move a soul out of purgatory. Deeds that needed to be done and masses to be said, pilgrimages made. But by the time of Luther these were not even being referenced, yet the indulgence salesmen were selling indulgences that would pay for the penitential canons. Getting people to pay for penalties that did not have to be paid penalties that did not exist.
These things that Luther is sighting are such blatant acts to raise money, you wonder why people did not see through what the pope and his leaders were doing. But people want to be able to do something to get God’s attention even if it looks like a scam! A few years ago there was a TV evangelist who had a program that encouraged people to send in their prayers and he would pray for them. When you sent in your request you got a message back saying “we have received your request for prayer by __________ he gets a lot of requests for prayer and if you can send in a minimum of $5.00 we can guarantee that he will pray for you”. That looks pretty fishy but thousands of people sent in their money get prayed for. This is what the church has done in the past when they had people pay for the priest to say a mass, or buy a candle to light for a forgotten soul. We are happy to do it to get the spiritual relief that we want.
Luther had started to tell people that they did not need to do all those things anymore because God had already forgiven their sin on the cross and they had to do nothing. Today we have to be reminded of the same thing, we do nothing for our salvation, God has done it all.
Dear Heavenly King, You reign over all of the earth and You reign in my life. Take control of my heart and give me the joy of knowing that I am forgiven in You. Remind me of Your love and restore my trust in You. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.