A. You should be credited for having seen the difficulty. (Many people, I’m afraid, have prayed the Our Father for years without reflecting on that phrase, without seeing a problem.) And now you have Pope Francis in your corner. In December 2017, in a series of televised conversations about the Lord’s Prayer with an Italian Catholic prison chaplain, the pope said, “It’s not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall. … The one who leads us into temptation is Satan.”
While not ordering a new translation of the prayer, the pope noted that French bishops had decided that, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent in 2017, French Catholics would say the equivalent of “do not let us enter into temptation.”
The prayer is taken from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, written originally in Greek. The revised edition of the New American Bible, which is the basis for the Lectionary used at Masses in the United States, translates the petition as, “do not subject us to the final test.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church admits the difficulty of translating the Greek verb by a single English word, noting, “the Greek means both ‘do not allow us to enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield to temptation'” (No. 2846).
Q. I am old (not just “elderly”) and sometimes forgetful. I did the unthinkable this past Ash Wednesday and prepared my usual breakfast of egg with sausage. I had actually eaten half of it before I realized what I had done. (My dog finished it up.)
I have since been troubled, wondering whether this was a sin that should be confessed to a priest. I did ask God’s forgiveness — that day, and many times since. Is there a relationship between sinfulness and intent to sin? (Mt. Airy, Georgia)
A. Lucky for your dog — who apparently is not a Catholic! Seriously, though, your question makes me a little sad. I would guess that you grew up — as I did — in the 1940s and 1950s, when our primary image of God was of the “Great Enforcer,” ever-vigilant to punish us for stepping out of line. That is not what Jesus taught us about God. The Lord loves us, created us for a reason, is on our side and wants to bring us to heaven.
And, of course, “intention” is key to sinfulness. Do you remember learning as a kid that one of the requirements for serious sin was “full consent of the will”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines this as “consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice” (No. 1859). So relax; you didn’t mean to do anything wrong, so you didn’t even need to be forgiven.
One story: Some years back, I was in Albany on a day when Catholics from across New York state were gathering to learn about, and lobby on, issues where public policy and morality intersect. A bishop from downstate and I were at a lunch counter near the Capitol enjoying bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches — when at virtually the same moment we realized, to our dismay and embarrassment, that it was Ash Wednesday.
As I recall, we finished the sandwiches rather than wasting them, and I am quite certain that neither of us ever felt compelled to confess it.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
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