Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
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 November 21, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. Someone asked why God allows suffering. God made us with free will. If God intervened and stopped every bad thing from happening then over time we would no longer be exercising our freedom. In some ways free will may be a curse, but at the same time free will is a valued gift.

A. Correct. The bad things are often called “The Mystery of Evil.” It has been dissected and diagnosed by philosophers, theologians and amateur rationalists who have written treatises and books without end. A few years ago a best-seller was the book Why Do Bad things Happen To Good People? by a wise rabbi. It’s almost time for another book.

Does God cause evil as a test or does God merely tolerate evil as a balance for good? Or perhaps God is not involved at all, allowing good and evil to run their courses. Or is there an evil force on the loose, independent and powerful, constantly causing evil? If so, can that evil force influence our choices to make bad things happen?

The Old Testament awards a name to that evil force: Satan, Hebrew for “adversary,” always personified as “the adversary.”

A passing note: His contemptuous nickname was Beelzebub – “Lord of Flies.” If you’ve been at a Near East open market on a summer day you will appreciate the humor.

The New Testament is decisive. The Gospels are insistent. The evil adversary appears the first day of Jesus’ ministry and he never leaves.

The adversary may be the cause but not to the point of suppressing our free choice and responsibility. It’s still our free will for good or evil, so we must accept the consequences.

Near the end, Jesus was concerned about Peter’s fidelity. “Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31) Jesus did not explain suffering. He endured it.

The Old Testament Book of Job is a morality play about the mystery of evil. Job, a God-fearing, virtuous man, is wiped out in a quick series of disasters. His old cronies try to explain why all those bad things happen to him, but he rejects their pious rationalizing.

God speaks: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, since you are so well informed.”

Job, contrite and humbled, can only say, “In dust and ashes I repent.”

Q. On Good Friday we had a good look at our large parish crucifix. Please tell us what the INRI means.

A. John’s Gospel says those are the letters that were fastened to the cross of Jesus (John 19:20). The I and J are interchangeable. It said Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum: “Jesus Nazarene King of Jews.” Written proclamations identifying victims and their crimes were common at executions.

Q. Why do some smaller religious denominations call their leaders district supervisors, instead of bishops, like the larger ones, like us?

A. It’s an interesting bit of semantics, nothing more and nothing less.

Our earliest Greek Catholic ancestors coined the words. “Epi-scopus” literally means to ‘’watch over.” That Greek word became Anglo-Saxon words “bisceop” and “biscop” that soon became the English “bishop.” Translate the Greek into Latin and we have “super-visor” – again, means to “watch over.”

It was important for our ancestors to establish a chain-link connection to the earliest Apostles. We know that St. Polycarp (what a fine name. Greek for “Many-gifted”) was made bishop by Apostle John, and Polycarp then ordained Bishop Irenaeus, third in a row, and a line of bishops began.

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