Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the Nov. 12, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. The priest who celebrated Mass for us said he was once asked if he would like to go to Medjugorje. His people would like to take him so he tried to find some way to back out. Finally he had to give in and go. He told us this was his 30th trip. Doesn’t that show us something?
A. Yes, it shows us he likes to travel. It’s a big world out there. If you happen to chat with him during his 31st visit you might suggest he get acquainted with the 1991 official report of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference. There are 20 bishops in the conference. By a vote of 19 to 1 they declared “one cannot affirm that we are dealing here with supernatural apparitions or revelations.”
In October 1993, the resident bishop, Most Rev. Ratko Peric, issued a clear disclaimer. “If, after serious, solid and professional investigation our Bishops’ Conference had the courage to declare that Medjugorje’s apparitions are not supernatural, in spite of massive stories and convictions to the contrary, then that is a sign that the church, even in the 20th century ‘upholds the truth and keeps it safe’ (1 Tim. 3:15). I affirm this unequivocally and I answer it publicly to all those who have written either anonymous or signed letters to me with contrary advice.”
Given a choice between a U. S. priest who visits often and the resident bishop who lives there and has the prime responsibility for keeping Catholic doctrine pure and undefiled, the Q.B. scrivener agrees with the bishop. It’s not a tough choice.
Q. Will you please address prophets? Was John the Baptizer the last? Will there be any more after Christ? I presume Islam recognizes Mohammad as a prophet but I can’t think of anyone else who has claimed that since John.
A. Lest we wander off on some prophetic path let’s make this clear. It’s a common misconception that Old Testament prophets were seers, predictors, fore-tellers. Not so. In the Old T. prophets were primarily enforcers of God’s law, guides for God’s people, announcers of God’s rule. It was a hazardous, not a popular, calling. Isaiah, the great; Jeremiah, the reluctant; Baruch, the exile; Ezekiel, the conscience; Daniel, the dreamer; Hosea, of the faithless wife; Joel, the penitential persuader; Amos, denouncing national infidelity; Obadiah, short and stern; Jonah, showing salvation for all; Micah, exposing corruption; Nahum, concerning destruction; Habakkuk, suffering for a reason; Zephaniah, impending punishment; Haggai, encouraging hope; Zechariah, promising peace; and Malachi, blaming priests.
The first four – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel – are considered major prophets, and the rest, minor prophets.
There is no group in all literature as diverse and effective as those men chosen for specific assignments to direct and cleanse the chosen people of God. It was a thankless calling. Jeremiah the reluctant, after years of abuse, has that wonderful line: “Lord, let me live long enough to see them get what they deserve.” One day, Jeremiah disappeared.
John the Baptizer, cousin of Jesus, was the last and greatest, called by Jesus “the greatest man born of a woman.”
Q. The Bible tells us we are not saved by good works lest any man should boast. Catholics place so much emphasis on merits for good works done as a sign of their personal salvation. I wonder why?
A. Would that it were true. Your general assumption that Catholics do so many good deeds that we can boast about them is wondrous to hear.
How many is too many? Considering that Catholics are about five times larger than the nearest Protestant denomination, why are we not five times more productive in good deeds?
Why should this be an either-or claim? Logically it should be a both-and reference, where one reinforces the other.
Religious faith is not just a spiritual sentiment that makes us feel born again and saved all over. James the Apostle is right: “Faith without good works is useless” and it is also true in reverse. That has been the Catholic teaching since James wrote that letter to us.