Q: Can a mortal sin be forgiven?
A: As we are in the midst of the Easter season, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, this is an appropriate question to begin our monthly “Ask the Bishop.” Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Holy Week and were instructed by the Scripture readings to the extent Jesus loves you and me, namely, without end. We all are aware that Jesus suffered, died and rose from the dead for the remission of sin. In doing so, Jesus, also, in his earthly ministry, gave us the Sacrament of Penance, also known as the celebration of Confession.
Mortal sin is forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, but it also is critical that the penitent or sinner confessing the mortal sin should be contrite, or full of sorrow, for such an egregious act. Jesus does not give us the Sacrament of Penance, so that he can simply erase sins, and, then, we go out and do more of the same. In the Sacrament of Penance, we receive that “spiritual upgrade,” enabling us through the grace received in the sacrament to be more like Jesus, thereby avoiding both mortal and venial sin; this way we avoid sin altogether by not giving in to temptation.
The sacred gift of the Sacrament of Penance provides you and me the ability to show others the way of Jesus and to hear his voice. Appropriately so, the Sacrament of Penance should be celebrated by an individual before he or she receives First Communion, thereby readying him or her to receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.
Q: How do you know if God is actually talking to you?
A: We all are aware that God wants us to talk to him. The greatest challenge is whether or not you and I are willing to listen. As human beings, we are prone to hear only what we want to hear, not necessarily what we need to hear. This can be so true in prayer, where we are invited to bend our will to God’s will. Prayer is that conversation with God.
This being said, it is important that we speak with others in order to confirm whether or not God is actually talking to us. Hearing voices does not necessarily constitute that we are communicating with God, or the saints. God’s voice is meant to go all the way into our inner being, not simply only to our senses.
I suggest you speak with your parents if you believe that the Lord is speaking to you, for regardless our age, he brings us comfort and solace in a world that at times can be quite challenging. Remember, God will never leave you and he wants you to hear his voice. In addition to prayer, such as at Eucharistic Adoration, you, also, hear his voice in the Bible readings, as well as in a number of ways at Mass. Think about it, every time you and I receive Jesus in the Eucharist, he is speaking to us, informing us, that when we receive him we become more like him. Jesus constantly is inviting us into his friendship.
Q: How do you know if God’s calling you to be a nun or priest?
A: This is a good follow-up question. Contrary to what we may hear or read at times, all vocations in the Church are not established by a “divine lightning strike.” Wouldn’t that be easy?
No, we are meant to quietly discern, which requires prayer and reflection, over whether or not we are receiving an invitation to serve God and his Church. Our service to God and his Church is realized especially through several vocations given to us in Holy Orders and the consecrated life. I invite all to keep your hearts open to the possibility of serving God and his Church through one of these vocations. Moreover, I encourage all parents and families to recognize that your home, also known as the domestic church, is a vocational nursery enabling our younger brothers and sisters to grow in God’s grace, thereby, providing them the opportunity to discern God’s will.
Pray over your Christian vocation and ask Jesus to share with you ways in which you may better hear his invitation to you. Reading about the various Church vocations is helpful, as well as to discuss them with individuals who have entered that particular Christian way of life. Remember, all vocations come at the invitation of Jesus himself.
Another way to strengthen your certainty of whether or not Jesus is inviting you to serve him in a Church vocation is to visit with your parish priest or a religious man or woman who can help you determine the sacred path upon which Jesus has called you. Discernment weekends at the seminary or open houses at religious residences, such as friaries, monasteries and convents are very helpful to experience the consecrated and religious way of life. We can strengthen the Church vocations in our Church through constant prayer, both individually and as a community, such as in a parish.
I encourage each one of our parishes to offer a day of Eucharistic Adoration or a Holy Hour each week or month for the particular intention of Church vocations. The Church vocations are here among us. What is necessary is that we open the minds and the hearts, not to mention the eyes and ears, of those called to serve.
God bless you and your family this Easter season celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.