Temporal Consequences for Sin
Common sense tells us that our sins have consequences. If after committing a sin, we confess, then God promises to forgive us. Yet there can still remain what the Church calls a “temporal punishment,” or consequence, for our sin.
For instance, in 2 Samuel 12 after David confesses his sin of adultery, the prophet Nathaniel tells him that the Lord has forgiven him, but nevertheless he will suffer the death of his child as a consequence of his sin.1 Our relationship with God is a personal one and our sins are not just rule violations, but personal offenses that need to be mended.
We can fulfill the temporal punishments for our sins through sincere sorrow for our sins, prayers, sacrifices, and acts of charity.
But as part of the Body of Christ, we can also assist in coming to the aid of our brothers and sisters, both living and dead. This is the basic principle of the Church’s practice of indulgences, and undoubtedly what St. Paul has in mind in Colossians 1:24 where he says, “I rejoice in my sufferings, and complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of his body, the Church.” Or perhaps it’s put best in 1 Peter 4:8, which simply states, “love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 – 2 Sam. 12:13-14