Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why go to Confession?

Why must I go to Confession?  Can’t I go directly to God?

There are three main reasons why we ought to go to Confession for the forgiveness of our sins.  The first is because it has been set up this way since the very early years of our children in the faith.  The Jewish people have been giving sin offerings for the atonement of their sins through the priest for centuries.  Jesus taught this same idea of the forgiveness of sins through those He appointed and gave such necessary authority that the Jewish people never had.

Secondly, both John and James mention the need to confess our sins to each other.  These men tell us to confess our sins to each other but more specifically James says that certain men have this power to forgive the sins of others (James 5:14-15).  We find in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6 Jesus forgiving the sins of a paralytic man and saying: “your sins are forgiven” and Matthew goes on to say in verse 8 that these powers are given to men (plural).

Thirdly, we know that Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins (Matt 9:6) and that Jesus sends His apostles with the words: “As the Father sent me, even so I now send you.” (John 20:21).  Therefore it is clear that Scripture teaches us that Jesus gave His apostles the authority to forgive sins.  These have been given this same authority as well as the authority to pass this authority on to their successors all the way through history to our bishops and priests of today.


To recap, true sacramental forgiveness of sins is a fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the forgiveness of sins of the Jewish people.  It is also the power of God working through men (bishops and priests) and is instituted by Jesus Himself and passed on through apostolic succession to the bishops and priests of today.

If you were dying of cancer and you prayed everyday for God to heal you, God could easily heal you instantly.  But before that happens you will no doubt constantly visit the doctor to help you.  Now say you are healed by the doctors help.  It is not the doctor that healed you, it was God.  The doctor was just the intermediary for God.  God used the doctor to perform His miracle.  This is the same way that God uses a priest to administer the sacrament of confession to us.  Sin is like a cancer and we need to go to the doctor (priest) to be healed.

So why go to confession?  Because Jesus Christ set it up this way.  Yes, if you ask forgiveness with a repentant heart, you will be forgiven but this only for venial sins.  If you’ve completely cut yourself off from His communion by performing mortal sin then you must go to confession so as to reconcile yourself to Him and His Church.

If Jesus truly set it up this way then who are we to assume we that we don’t need to go?  Don’t delay in going to Confession.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Scripture Alone?

Today’s readings reminded me of one of the major problems that most non-Catholic Christians have with their idea that Scripture is to be our final authority in right-Christian living as well as finding out what is to be believed as doctrinally true.

Let’s set aside the fact that this rule can nowhere be found in our Scriptures (the Bible) and therefore defeats its own rule.  What I mean by that is if our final authority in determining what is doctrinally true is the Bible then this rule ought to be found in our Bible.  And it isn’t.  What I found in today’s readings that reminded me of this was the fact that not only is this rule of ‘Sola Scriptura’ not found in Scripture but Scripture itself teaches something that is opposite of this premise.

In the first reading from today we find Ezra the priest lift up the Scriptures of the time to the people and begins reading it to them.  As we can see, Scriptures are indeed very important since they are the written Word of God but Ezra not only “read plainly from the book of the law of God” he also interpreted it “so that all could understand what was read.” (Neh 8:8)

Even in the Old Testament times we see a need for some in authority to interpret the Scriptures so that we all may understand it properly.  Before the time of Jesus these interpreters ended up misapplying the Scriptures and erred on matters of faith and morals when interpreting the written Word of God.  Since Jesus came to ‘fix’ the problems of the times, does this mean that we shouldn’t have an authority to help us understand Scripture properly?  By no means!  Jesus came to ‘fix’ the problems, that is he came to fulfill, not to destroy the old system.

The reason that the Jews veered off course in understanding the written Word of God is because they hadn’t receive the promise of God that they would be guided into all truth as the leaders of the new Kingdom, that is His Church (John 16:13).  When Jesus instituted His Church here on earth, he fulfilled what was lacking previously.  He promised them that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Mat 18:18).  Since nothing untrue can be bound in heaven, we understand Jesus’ statement that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into binding and loosing the faithful in an infallible manner on matters of faith and morals.
Jesus tells His followers that the last authority in guiding fellow Christians to the truth is the Church (Mat 18:15-17) and so when a major disagreement arose between Paul and some judaizers, those judaizers and Paul were sent to the Church to settle the matter which we now call the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:2).  Their decision in settling the matter was guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) and was binding not only for the local congregation but to all the faithful (Acts 16:4).  We see examples of these councils throughout history all the way up to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s.  Since the Church is the final authority, Paul describes the Church, not the Scriptures, as being the upholder and standard of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).  Therefore the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) is not only nowhere found in our Bible, it is actually contrary to what the Bible teaches.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Faith vs Works

Let’s look at verses that many Protestants use to make their case of Sola Fide, the doctrine of salvation through faith alone as compared to passages that seem to suggest that salvation is found through works alone.

Galatians 3:11 “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

Acts 16:30-31 “He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.””

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”


Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.”

It seems pretty obvious that we are justified, that is saved, by faith alone right?  Not so fast, let’s compare the case for salvation through faith alone with the many passages in the Bible on the need of doing good works in regards to our salvation.

Rom 2:13 “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”

James 2:24 “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

James 2:20 “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Mat 7:21 ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Mat 19:16-17 “ Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

Eph 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Therefore, by virtue of not having a single verse directly stating that one is saved through faith alone along with the fact that our Bible does say that one is saved by what we do, we see a need to marry all these verses together without contradictions.  Paul does exactly that in his letter to the Galatians where he says that “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.”  And so we can see that it’s not exactly what we do but with what intention that we do these things because of our faith.  If we do these things out of love then that makes it pleasing to God and useful for our salvation (James 2:20-26).


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Sunday, January 6, 2013


Epiphany - 2013

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

From Advent until now the readings and themes of our liturgies have all centered
on God’s coming to us. The underlying movement has been God seeking us out and
offering Himself to us in His Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah
first promised to the descendants of Adam and Eve after their Fall.

In today’s Liturgy the basic movement shifts. Now it’s all about our seeking,
specifically our seeking out God in His Christ, and by the word “our” I mean all of
humanity. The Magi we need to note were not Jews. They were the representatives
of the gentile nations and peoples. They were kings who were sages, wise men,
visionaries, men who searched beyond what is obvious, searching into the
mysterious non-scientific world in which we exist as distinguished from what is material.

The word "question" has the word "quest" tucked inside it, an idea that's presented
to us in today's gospel account given to us by St. Matthew. Epiphany invites us to join
in the quest of the Wise Men as well as the quest of all Christian believers seeking to
enter into the mystery of God, particularly the mystery of God become incarnate.

We live in a world of problems to be solved. A mystery, however, is not a problem
to be solved, it is a quest to be lived. A well-known sports figure was asked what
his chief ambition in life was. He replied, "My chief ambition is to go to heaven."
The sports writer who was interviewing him thought it was a joke. The ball player
responded: "My friend, I don't think that's funny. I know you don't mean to be a
smart aleck, but there's something wrong with a person's attitude when he's flippant
about the great mysteries of the universe." And the man who spoke these words was
a professional baseball player.

We, too, can be superficial when we miss the point in the account we've just heard
in today's gospel. We can get all wrapped up in solving the problem about where the
star came from, where it was located in heaven, who the Wise Men really were and
where they came from, and exactly how a heavenly star could guide them. So, too,
when people try to analyze Christ's miracles, attempting to explain them away by
finding natural causes, completely missing God's revelation that is made evident to
us in them.

The gifts of the Magi are meant to express our human awe and reverence for the
true inner nature of the Christ child. Worldly powers, represented by the Three Kings,
along with their powers of government over peoples, are placed at His feet. Gold, the
currency of kings, is given to Him. Frankincense is the gift given to priests, bringing
us into contact with the world of mystery and transcendence. Myrrh is an ointment
used in the preparation of a body for burial; it's significance being quite obvious in
terms of this child's destiny, as well as our own human destiny. Death is a mystery we
all enter into as equals, regardless of how important or significant our lives have been
during time here on earth. Death is a mystery to be lived. It not just another problem
to be solved.

Mysteries lead to discovery, or more accurately to revelation. When you encounter
paradox and mystery, you are close to the gospels. For quite obviously God is
bigger, more powerful, and infinitely more than anything we are. Mere data, mere
information cannot possibly carry the weight or bear the load of the enormity of
Mystery, particularly theological mysteries. The only thing that's strong enough
to bear the full weight of revelation is mystery, along with poetic and symbolic
language. Science and technology collapse under the weight of all we must face, and
face daily.

There is a motto that tells us: "knowledge is power." Quite so. But wisdom is
superior, deeper, and a far more profound reality than knowledge or understanding.
Wisdom is found in the realms of mystery; it’s the only true path to revelation.

We should not let our modern technological world and culture rob us of our innate
sense of mystery. We should not let our children be deprived of having a childhood.
We should not deprive ourselves of something that children can point to, namely the
world of awe, reverence and mystery. To enter those realms we must, as Jesus told
us, become as little children.

Children, as we all know, love stories. So do we. The infancy narratives surrounding
the birth of Jesus Christ are filled with wondrous stories. The legendary story of
Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, the three Wise Men, is a story that invites us to be
as little children once again and with awe, reverence, and wonder to enter into the
world of Mystery, there to receive God's revelation.

Is it a story that we regard with distant and unemotional objectivity? Is it merely the
subject of cool intellectual curiosity? Or is it a wondrous, mystical story that invites us
to embark upon a quest, a journey that was there in the beginning at the birth of our Savior, and a journey or a pilgrimage that Christians have been embarked upon for 2,000 years now?
God has a Word for you - He has something to say to you. God has a vision for you, a
revelation to give you. Are you willing to be a seeker and to journey with those Wise
Men from the East? The wise still seek Him.

Epiphany is not a one-time event, it is a context in which we live. How, then, can we
seek the Lord in these days, in these times of ours?

The one necessary thing is to give God time, quiet and alone time in which to reflect
and meditate. I have talked with some very busy and highly successful people who
actually take time out away from their many concerns to reflect. They give their
attention to God still, inner voice deep within them. They have come to know that
they are more effective if they reflect on what they are doing, reflect on their goals
and how they are achieving them. A by-product found in such times is a sense of
fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness. These are all things that can be done in the
presence of God, all things that are ultimately directed at seeking God’s purposes for
our lives. They are far more important to attend to than the problems that beset us.

If Christmas is all about God coming to us to seek us out, then Epiphany is all about
our seeking out the God who has come among us. The Wise Men offer us great
wisdom. They give us a gift that is priceless. After finding Christ they went home by
another route. We should too.

With the Wise Men, May you and I make that journey.

Taken from: