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 Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the January 17, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Speaking of a Trinity, why do we assume what we say it is? How did we arrive at that? The word Trinity is nowhere in the Bible. Jesus never mentioned it. Yet the Bible is the source of faith because it’s God’s Word among us. How did we arrive at a Trinity?
A. Before we respond to your question, let’s agree that ultimately God’s nature is a mystery and will forever remain a mystery. But where is it written that we are capable, or perhaps entitled, to understand the totality of God?
The Bible describes God the Father who “dwells in unapproachable light” (I Timothy 6:16). We can accept that. We can stand at the perimeter of the Father’s unapproachable light. The New Testament, equal in status with the Old Testament, adds to our knowledge by introducing the Son and the Spirit, “equal in rank” (Matthew 28: 19 and 2 Cor.13: 13).
The Gospels repeatedly present Jesus Christ as the Son of God who promises to send the Holy Spirit of God among his disciples to guide them forever. It’s impossible to read the New Testament without coming to the conclusion that God is the Father, the Son and the Spirit. The perfect word to describe that triple divine presence is “Trinity.”
That much we know, and it’s not much, about God who dwells in unapproachable light. Paul may have been meditating on this when he wrote his second letter to his friends in Corinth: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Q. Recently I was really impressed when I watched the hospital priest-chaplain give the “last rites” to a dying relative. The chaplain explained every step as he went along. It was beautiful. Later I asked my pastor why we don’t have anything like it at such a critical time. Can you tell me how Catholics got this sacrament?
A. If your denomination does not have a sacrament of anointing for sick people you might inquire about the Letter of James 5:14. It’s perfectly clear that our earliest ancestors cared for their sick families and friends by prayers and anointing. “Is anyone sick among you? Let them call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins he will be forgiven.”
Please note this Sacrament of the Sick is a reminder of his Baptism. The first time he was anointed with blessed oil he was set aside to be a child of God destined for great things. He would receive the Body and Blood of Christ. He would have any sins forgiven by another sacrament. He would be firmly grounded by Confirmation in his faith. He may have been blessed by marriage. All sacraments clustered around his faith.
And now, nearing the end of his life of faith, he receives a final anointing reminiscent of his first. He is coming full circle to the anointing that started it all.
Q. I read the Gospel of John where I agreed to believe in Jesus as my personal savior, to love God and love my neighbor. Isn’t that the total faith that’s required for salvation?
A. Formula answers can be correct but incomplete. They’re bumper sticker theology, snappy one-liners that leave out a lot.
A firm belief in the real presence of Jesus in our Eucharist will be necessary. If you “Do this in memory of me ... “ it’s a start. Unless you are already perfect you should plan ahead for a regular shrivening in the sacrament of reconciliation with guaranteed results. “Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven . . . .”
Regular acts of kindness towards insufferable people will be a healthy sign. “Whatever you do to the least...” will show you’re serious about your faith.
True, John’s Gospel is a good place to start, but the Gospels are a package deal. You have three more to go.
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