“Today she would buy her dead father into Heaven!”
With that thought she woke up. With more energy than usual Mary rolled out of bed into her day at 5am. Kneading dough in the dark she started the day’s loaves cooking by 6am. With Peter’s help she packed the hot loaves for sale and they barely made the obligatory 7am Mass.
After Mass, Peter left for his 12 hours as a brick-maker while Mary hit the streets. Rushed, Mary only had 3 hours to make the money before the sale. Finally the last loaf sold and she had just enough in her purse.
2 months earlier.
Mary’s father died only 2 months earlier and worry compounded the grief she felt. Confessing to her priest she talked about her father’s lack of interest in the church. He claimed Catholicism but rarely made it to Mass. With sincere sobriety the priest expressed doubt whether her father’s life would get him past Pergatory. With the man’s life over he had two options left.
Endure Pergatory indefinitely or receive an exemption.
Mary couldn’t bear the thought of her father in Hell or Pergatory so she asked about the other option. The priest explained the good news; the Pope just decreed what she needed earlier this year. Exemptions from Pergatory called “indulgences” could be purchased from the church. Indulgences covered a range of other sins but Mary focused in on the idea of freeing dad from Purgatory.
The price scared her.
The priest apologetically explained the price of an indulgence to her. Mary paled because she and her husband didn’t make much. And they already gave their state mandated tithe to the church. But her dad meant so much to her!
She would do whatever it took.
2 months of non-stop work followed. She had to hurry because the papal representative would only come to her town once that year. Peter and her took on extra work and they still made daily Mass. They slept little. Finally the day arrived.
With the last bread sold Mary rushed to the square. A crowd already gathered around the white and red banner. Person after person shouted for joy as they paid and left with a slip of parchment in hand.
“That’s what an indulgence looks like?” Mary thought.
Finally she made it to the platform. A velvet-clothed worker asked which indulgence she wanted. Tearfully she asked about her father. Indifferently the man told the price. It shocked her. Nearly double what her priest quoted her the indulgence sat out of reach. Explaining her predicament the man explained she could purchase a shortening but she couldn’t guaruntee his release from Purgatory.
Dejected, she resigned herself to buying the lesser indulgence. With her German fortitude she resolved to work harder and attend church more over the next year. She wondered how anyone had the energy to make it to heaven?
The sound of a hammer interrupted her thoughts as she walked home. Distracted, she looked over to see a plump priest hammering yet another announcement on the door of the church. Curious she walked over to see a sheet stretching nearly to the ground.
The date was October 31, 1517. The title read “95 Theses” by Martin Luther
Little did she know that sheet would change her life.
500 years ago today Christianity needed a reset. Martin Luther pointed the church back to the grace of God. He freed people like Mary from the deceptive tyranny of earning God’s favor. He laid the foundation for grace-filled church calling men and women to Christ.
The story above represents the worst of what the church became 1500 years after Christ. I hope to be part of becoming the best of what Christ intended.
Imagining the (made-up) story of Mary I shudder to think of life before Luther. The church strayed so far from the grace of Jesus! I thank God for the work of this German monk which we celebrate today.
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no man can boast.”-Ephesians 2:8-9