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Repeating the same sins
Q. I get tired going to confession and hearing myself telling the same old sins over and over again.
Can I ask God directly for forgiveness of minor sins?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Guess what? Priests go to confession and repeat the same old sins over and over, too.
So, don't be embarrassed. It's not as though confessors expect you to come up with new and exciting lists of sins each time.
The truth is that most people confess old familiar sins, and don't often experience radical or instantaneous adjustments to their moral lives. We are very much creatures of habit.
While they are appropriate matter for confession, venial sins can be forgiven by prayer, good works and the regular examination and presentation of conscience to God.
Christ’s Pierced Side
Q. In a discussion with one of my sibling's, the question was raised at to which side Christ was pierced by the spear at the crucifixion. I can't recall seeing any painting or crucifix that doesn’t show the wound on the right side, but I don't see where it is stated in the Gospels.
— Chris C.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
John is the only Evangelist to include the detail of the soldier piercing Jesus’ side, and he does not mention which side. Although artists seem to have agreed to place the wound on the right, an early carved box, now in the British Museum, shows the wound on the left side. In the 16th century, Lucas Cranach painted a crucified Christ with no wounded side and, when asked, said he would add the detail when it was revealed to him. As late as the 19th century, Eduard Manet represented Christ supported by angels, with a wounded left side.
Artists may have chosen to represent the right as the more noble side. Too, because theologians have long taught that the Church was born from the blood and water flowing from Christ’s wounded side, artists may have borrowed the image from Ezekiel (see 47:2), in which the prophet speaks of water flowing from the south — that is, the right — side of the Temple. And because the soldier’s gesture appears to have been almost an afterthought, simply mentioning the detail may have been John’s way of teaching that Christ was unnecessarily wounded by the carelessness of cruel and thoughtless humanity.
God or Satan?
Q. Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel? Two scriptural passages that refer to the incident seem to contradict one another. According to 2 Samuel 24:1, God did it. According to 1 Chronicles 21:1, Satan did it.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The Old Testament clearly reveals that everything which happens is somehow part of God's overall plan for creation. Even evil occurs only because God allows it to happen. To emphasize this point, the Old Testament frequently indulges in what we may call hyperbole (exaggeration for the sake of emphasis). It speaks of God as himself bringing about evil.
The 1 Chronicles account may be taken literally; David's wrongful act was incited by Satan (though David should have re-sisted). The 2 Samuel version may be taken as meaning that God allowed (rather than incited) David to do a sinful act.
Question of the Day for Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Position After Communion?
Q. What is the proper position for laypeople after receiving holy Communion and returning to the pews: standing, kneeling or sitting?
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Standing, kneeling or sitting? Yes, yes and yes. According to the official Church document that regulates this matter, you can make a case for standing, sitting or kneeling.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states: "The faithful should stand from … the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren) before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below. . . . As circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed. . . . The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise" (No. 43).
The general custom is that the faithful sit or kneel after Communion. But some bishops have stipulated that all the faithful should "remain standing" until everyone has received holy Communion. This indication is based on a wide interpretation of the words "the faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise."
Until the 2003 edition of the GIRM, that indication applied to the period between the Agnus Dei and Communion. But since the time after Communion is certainly also "after the Agnus Dei," some ordinaries have created a new post-Communion postural experience, which is not entirely without merit.
Standing until all have received Communion is a sign of respect and solidarity, and does not preclude any of the faithful from making a private act of thanksgiving.
So you may stand, kneel or sit, unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise.
Awareness of Sin
Q. Can a person go to confession if they don't have any sins to confess.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully expresses the origin and purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: “Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have this lost their baptismal grace and woundedecclesial communion” (No. 1446).
Confession of serious (mortal) sin is necessary if we are to receive the Eucharist. “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience … and progress in the life of the Spirit” (No. 1458).
But what if we are not aware even of venial sin? This seems an unlikely possibility, but the Sacrament of Penance is nonetheless a valuable spiritual tool. The Catechism reminds us, “Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused” (No. 1459). Acts of penance and reparation are the principal way to restore our spiritual health, but one may — without being overly scrupulous — occasionally seek the grace of the sacrament simply as a remedy against the weaknesses and temptation each of us is subject to every day.
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