This Week’s Ask Alice: Is There A Link Between Faith and Prosperity and A Question About the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

Heather writes: Why do you say God is going to make my life better if I believe? It doesn’t say that anywhere in the bible.

Alice Answers: Accounts of God’s punishments are rampant in the Old Testament from the moment Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden to the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And all of those chastisements occur in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

For the Israelites, 215 years of Egyptian enslavement culminated with the ten plagues. Basically, God was punishing the sinful, disobedient people of ancient times. However, the Old Testament also contains countless examples of God’s protection. Many righteous people such as Noah (with his Ark afloat), Joseph (whose dreamy gift saved him from slavery) and Moses (the Jewish baby rescued by Pharaoh’s own daughter) were recipients of God’s Mercy.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In the New Testament we see God’s deep, abiding love manifested through His Son, Jesus. Examples of Jesus’ divine mercy and love are evident when our Lord dined with Zacchaeus, the tiny tax collector, cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, saved an adultress from stoning, and forgave the woman who washed His feet with her hair.

Sadly, ours is a sinful world where both good and evil people suffer. “For his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) God doesn’t cause all of the sickness and suffering in the world. Many societal and personal wounds are the result of people’s cruelty and indifference toward one another.

God doesn’t promise earthly pleasures and treasures, but he does promise joy, peace, comfort, love and a heavenly banquet to those who those believe in him. Both the Old and New Testaments are overflowing with God’s wonderful promises. “You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1Peter 1:8)

“Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and and in petitions full of gratitude. Then God’s own peace, which surpasses all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.” (Phillippians 4:6).

When we are going through tough times the Lord invites us to, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28) “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will grant you the desires of your heart…” (Psalm 37:4)

In addition to the countless gifts bestowed upon believers, God is saving the best gift for last.

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard… what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Corinthians 2:9)

No husband, wife, sibling, parent, friend, lawyer, philanthropist, psychologist or physician could make and keep such perfect promises!

In Christ’s Love,

Alice

****

Nancy writes: The priest at a local church I know will hear confessions and tell the penitent to say their Act of Contrition outside of the confessional, in the church, and then he will give them absolution! Is this a valid confession?

Alice Answers: We Catholics tend to appreciate ritual, especially when it comes to important things. And what could be more important than the peace of mind that comes from having all of our sins totally and absolutely forgiven?

For that reason, it’s best for all concerned to always try to do everything “by the book” … but sometimes, things don’t go exactly as planned.

I don’t know your priest or your parish, but my guess is that the time frame available for hearing confessions is limited, the number of priests available is small, and the lines are long.

Under such conditions, asking people to make their Act of Contrition in advance would not be considered an abuse, and it would also not be likely to affect the validity of the sacrament, in any way.

Here’s why:

In order to receive absolution for sins, the Sacrament of Penance typically requires three things of the penitent: 1) Genuine contrition (sorrow) for committing the sins; 2) Repentance. The existence of a firm purpose of amendment, including both a sincere intention and a real, practical possibility of turning away from sin; 3) Verbal confession of all known mortal sins, to the priest.

Assuming that everyone involved is acting in good faith, and that all three of the above mentioned things are present, the confession is considered to be good, the priest may absolve, sins are forgiven, sanctifying grace is restored to the soul, and all is well.

With these essential conditions fully satisfied, the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also more than sufficient to overcome most other variations in formula or follow through.

Changing the order of some things, omitting the Act of Contrition, and/or even failing to perform the assigned penance would not (typically) serve to invalidate an otherwise good confession. And of course, in times of emergency, war, or imminent peril, certain other expediences might also become necessary or prudent, in order to save souls.

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