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 May 20, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. First thing we should do is confess our sins directly to Jesus and we will be saved. The more we know about tradition in my church thatís what we mean. It satisfies our spiritual needs to know Jesus has offered his forgiveness, which we accept gladly. Why canít my Catholic friends accept that simple Bible verse?
A. Ah, but we do. Not one of your Catholic friends is totally sinless, so you have that in common with us. But the method Catholics use to recover our ďstate of graceĒ (thatís what we call our forgiven status) is more definitive than yours. Itís more demanding and itís more effective.
Itís one thing to pray fervently, asking Jesus to forgive our sins, one or many, so that we feel good about our deliverance, but itís quite another thing to confess out loud to another person knowing he has the power to absolve whatever we confess.
ďHe breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain they are retained.Ē (John 20:23) What a gift for his final act! Jesus gave his apostles the unsurpassed power to forgive sins of any kind and unlimited number.
One of the steps in the recovery program for Alcoholics Anonymous is to require the person to speak so others in the group can hear. No muffled mumbling. No whispering or silent concentration. The need to speak and be heard begins the recovery. Itís one thing to whisper sins into your pillow but recovery begins when we speak to a person who can forgive them.
Q. When did we stop invoking our patron saints? Iím especially interested in the saint associated with doctors and medicine, whoever that might be. So I guess I want to know: Is there a doctor in the house?
A. You have a nice touch. For you we recommend an exceptional pair of Arab twin brothers, Cosmas and Damian, both doctors, natives of Syria, migrated to Rome, martyred in an early century. Legend says they were survivors, hard to kill. Rocks that people threw at them were miraculously turned around to strike those who threw them.
Q. They just opened another gambling casino in town where I frequent. I have always paid my taxes on all winnings. An accountant says itís not necessary, but I do. Over the years Iím sure I have lost more, so why should I pay on my winnings when my losses are not deductible?
A. Good question. But the larger question? Why you keep gambling when youíre losing more than youíre winning. Aye, thereís the rub.
Moral theologians like to lump such items as taxes on winnings and import duty tax under penal laws and they conclude that such infringements on your good-time money do not bind in conscience. That reminds me of my old prof who liked to say that moral theologians have as much chance as anyone else to enter heaven, although they might be a bit singed around the edges.
St. Paul reminds us that we should be good citizens, obey the laws and pay our taxes. He didnít mention gambling, but I have a guess he would have advised against it.
Q. From my present age I cannot recall if I confessed a certain difficult sin that bothers me. For that my conscience still bothers me. Why should that be after all these years? And what if my memory starts to fail and I completely forget about this?
A. Letís not confuse conscience with guilt feelings. Theyíre not the same.
Conscience is a sensitivity to what I know is right or wrong and what I plan to do about it. Itís an appraisal before I act. What I will do, or not do. I know right from wrong, so which will I choose? Guilt feelings are the result of an awareness of what I have done and what I should not have done. Itís re-appraisal after the fact. Hindsight makes us all wiser.
We have a wonderful sacrament for this worry. Talk it over with your local friendly priest. Plan ahead for the sacrament of confession that can absolve any sins of any kind in any amount.
ďLord, forgive me now. Tomorrow I might not feel guilty.Ē