Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the June 18, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. A distant relative made a comment that none of the writers of the Gospels knew Jesus personally and it’s a fact they never met him. If that’s true, where do the Gospels get credibility? You probably know about this, and if so, I would like to hear your response.
A. It’s easy to make a broad negative statement (e.g. “none of the writers”) but it’s tough to prove a negative. You might wonder what motivates a person to make such a wide-ranging negative statement with no evidence to support it.
Evidence to the contrary is plentiful. Writers who were closest to the source were in the best position to state their convictions. They knew, they wrote, and they testified, as Luke confirms in the introduction to his Gospel, that the events he reported “were transmitted to us by the original witnesses and ministers of the word.”
Given a choice between Luke’s positive first-hand testimony and the pointless negative opinion of a latter-day skeptic, you naturally prefer the testimony of witnesses closest to the source.
Other witnesses appear. St. Irenaeus (d. 200) wrote an informative treatise, “Against Heresies,” on this very topic. He was a pupil of St. Polycarp (a fine Greek name meaning “many gifted”) who said he knew St. John the Apostle, one of the original Twelve. There’s the connection, said Irenaeus. He listed Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as authors of the four Gospels. No one challenged him.
If your relative has some negative evidence to the contrary, now is the time to bring it to your attention.
Q. What is the gift of tongues? I’ve been a steady Catholic all my life, with good standing as a regular parish member, but this part about tongues is something new to me. How did I miss it?
A. In the Acts of the Apostles (2:4-13) there’s a sensational event that defies all explanations. People who had no prior knowledge of a foreign language suddenly began to speak it fluently and – wonder of wonders – were understood by others in their native languages. That must have seemed miraculous when it was repeated in a dozen foreign languages. It was glossolalia.
It was a surprise miracle of Pentecost. The disciples who were instantly fluent in foreign languages used their gift of tongues to instruct others in their newly found faith.
The charismatic movement has fostered some oral outpourings, but the lack of understanding by interpreters makes one wonder why, and wonder how ineffective they might be. The more perfect way, in St. Paul’s experience, is not through tongues or fine speech but in charity (1 Cor. 13:1).
Q. I thought I understood the similarity of divorce and annulment but now I don’t think so. I know they’re not the same. Will you please explain? Does a Catholic annulment need a divorce first?
A. The Catholic Church does not grant divorces. Civil court does that for civil effects.
As the Q.B. has often said, an annulment is a formal declaration that a marriage that was once considered valid is now, because of evidence, declared to have been null and void from the beginning. It’s like tearing up a $100 bill you just learned was counterfeit. It was phony the day it was made. It will never turn into good money.
On the other hand, a divorce is a civil dissolution of what may have been a valid marriage – like tearing up a good $100 bill.
By the way, civil law also grants annulments for the same reasons.
There have been some pricey cases with considerable cash settlements when it was shown that a marriage never happened because of an impediment that just surfaced.
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