Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fr. Robert Altier: Did The Power To Forgive Sin Die With The Apostles?

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Or Did Christ Confer Power To His Apostles Down Through The Ages.


Fr. Robert Altier-Throughout history, people have denied that the Church can forgive sin, that is, they have rejected and denied the reality of this sacrament. The reformers said that sin is forgiven only through baptism. The Montanists and the Donatists said that the Church could forgive venial sin but could not forgive mortal sin. Interestingly, the Church teaches us that the only sins which absolutely must be confessed are the mortal sins. You have some people saying that the Church does not have the authority to forgive serious sin. The spiritual backing for this comes from a couple of different places. We can look, for instance, at Matthew 16 where Jesus says, You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church; whatever you hold bound on earth will be held bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Then in Matthew 18, Jesus also extends the ability to forgive sin to all of the apostles, not just to Peter with the binding and loosing, but all the apostles. Most clearly, in John 20 after the Resurrection, Jesus breathes on the apostles and says, Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you hold bound are held bound. There is the authority for both, to forgive or to refuse forgiveness. We see that God Himself is the One telling us that whatever you hold bound or forgive on earth will be held bound or forgiven in heaven. Therefore, we see that Our Lord Himself invested the apostles with the authority to forgive sins, but again it can also be used to refuse forgiveness. We will address why that would happen further on.

We see that this conferral of power to forgive sins is not a personal gift to the apostles, but rather we believe it was transferred through them to the Church as a permanent institution. All you have to do is think about it and say, “If Jesus gave the apostles authority to forgive sin but that authority died with the apostles, the rest of us are up a creek because it means there is no forgiveness of sin.” Unless sin ended with the death of the last apostle, there would be no more need to forgive anybody; and we know that is not the case, because we know that we live in the most sinful society the world has ever known. God also said, Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. [Romans 5:20] So we know that His will to forgive and the grace of forgiveness is available to us, but it is a matter of availing ourselves of that grace. The power, then, was transmitted by the apostles to their successors in the same way that the power to say Mass and to preach was passed on to their successors. And it is obvious why. Sin is going to continue for all time; therefore, the forgiveness of sin is necessary for all time.

One of the tricks of the devil, and it works very well, is that he tries to shame you with it. He brings things up in front of you and says, “Look at what you did. You rotten thing, you, look at this sin! Can you believe you are such a disgusting creature as to do something like this?” Then we start falling into the self-pity and all the other stuff. Do not play his game. The thing to do is very simple; just say, “I have already confessed it and God has forgiven me.” If it has not been confessed, then say, “Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I will confess it next time I go to confession.” Either way, you pull the rug out from underneath him. In the first one, you are acknowledging that you did it. What he wants is for you to either say, “I never did it,” or to say, “God hasn’t forgiven me.” So you are acknowledging both: “I have already confessed it and God has forgiven me.” I always like to add: “You lose, Satan.” You do not have to do that if you do not want to, but it is the truth. With the other one, it pulls the rug out from under him. He is trying to shame you with something, so if you stick it right back in his face and say, “Thank you. I will confess that as soon as I can,” what is he going to do? His attempt to shame you has failed because you took it and made it into something positive instead of the negative thing that he wanted to do with it. That is the way to handle it.

Do not play his game. The more we play around with the devil, the worse trouble we get ourselves into. So recognize how he works and tell him to get lost. Since his name is Lucifer, I like to call him “Loser-fer” because he is the ultimate loser. He has chosen against God and he is spending eternity in hell. That is what a loser is all about. As Mother Teresa said, the only ones who are a success in this life are the ones who succeed in getting to heaven, and the only ones who are a failure in this life are the ones who fail to get to heaven. It does not matter if you die with ten billion dollars. If you go to hell, what difference does it make? What profit is there for a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? What good does it do? The only thing that matters is getting to heaven, so do not play footsie with the devil. It does not do us any good at all.

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