something was wrong the moment Mrs. Murphyís teenage daughter opened the
door. The Murphys were a large Catholic family that I had been visiting
for several weeks, trying to share the gospel. The young girl greeted me
with a tense hello and a warning: "You really got my mom mad the last
time you were here!"
From the tone
of her voice, it was clear that the daughter had also taken offense at
something I had said, but my mind was blank as to what it could be. As
she led me into the living room, I quickly tried to recall my previous
visit two weeks earlier. But the effort was unnecessary. There in the
center of the room stood Mrs. Murphy. Squared-off like an aggressive
boxer eager to begin a bout, she was waiting for me.
calling me a Pharisee?" Mrs. Murphy demanded.
of the sweetest persons I knew, the bite in her voice told me that she
was really worked up over something.
"What do you
mean?" I asked sheepishly. "I never called you a Pharisee."
With her eyes
locked on me like heat-seeking missiles, Mrs. Murphy took a quick, deep
breath as she prepared to launch a long-planned offensive. At the last
moment, however, I was granted a stay of execution. Arrested by her
normally prudent nature, Mrs. Murphy stormed out of the room in a huff.
but I donít know what youíre talking about," I called after her. My plea
went unheard. Mrs. Murphy was gone.
all about?" I asked her daughter.
something you wrote down and gave to my Mom the last time you were here.
She said you called her a Pharisee."
it!" I said, finally realizing what must have happened.
previous visit, Mrs. Murphy and I had talked about the meaning of sin. I
had tried to help her understand that she was a sinner who needed to be
saved, but she would have nothing of it.
"Iíve lived a
good and decent life," Mrs. Murphy had objected.
Scriptures tell us that all our righteous deeds are like a filthy
garment," I answered.
always put God first in your life?"
"Have you ever
used Godís name in vain?"
"Have you ever
"What would I
have to lie about?"
"Have you ever
"Have you ever
had an unclean thought?" I asked, fully aware that I was treading on
sacred ground. In Irish families mothers with seven or more children
like Mrs. Murphy are considered living saints. Predictably, she lost her
"I donít know
whatís wrong with you. Your generation might be obsessed with sex, but I
donít have those kinds of thoughts."
the topic had progressed that day about as far as it was going to, I
decided to make a tactical retreat. Taking a note pad, I wrote out a
Scripture reference for Mrs. Murphy and handed it to her, asking, "Will
you read this passage and see what the Bible has to say about sin?"
believing that she had successfully staved off my attack on her personal
righteousness, accepted it cheerfully. Her warm farewell as I departed
left me unprepared for the hostile reception that I was now receiving on
this, my following visit.
"It wasnít me
who called your mother a Pharisee," I said to Mrs. Murphyís daughter.
"It was the Scriptures." I said goodbye, promising to return another
Deceived as to
Mrs. Murphy is
typical of a great number of Catholics. A hard-working mother living a
simple life, she viewed herself as a good person. Her conscience may
have troubled her from time to time, making her feel guilty about
something she had said or done. But any idea that she was a sinner who
had offended God and deserved eternal punishment was out of the
question. Her Church, her culture, and her own heart had convinced her
that, though she may not be perfect, she was ready to stand in the
judgment. And woe to the person who dared to say otherwise!
Catholics it wouldnít matter if even God Himself through His Scriptures
was the one accusing them of sin. This point was illustrated to me while
talking to an elderly Irishwoman. A friend and I met her while visiting
farm houses in rural County Galway, Ireland. Like Mrs. Murphy, she also
claimed to have never committed a sin of any consequence. Standing at
her doorstep, I opened my Bible to Romans 3:23, and holding it toward
her for her to read, quoted the verse: "All have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God."
refuse ink," she retorted without missing a beat. In other words, you
can print what you like, but that doesnít make it so. She was no sinner
regardless of who was accusing her, even God through His inspired Word.
As she slammed
the door in our faces, we had a taste of how God must feel when sinners
close their hearts to Him. We also had a reminder that the Roman
Catholic Church has misled its people as to the most basic spiritual
truth about us all: we are guilty sinners unfit to dwell in the presence
of a Holy God. Catholics understand neither their true spiritual
condition nor the seriousness of their sins.
think that the majority of their sins have no eternal bearing on their
soul, and so dismiss them as unimportant. I spoke to one Catholic woman
in her 50ís who was only willing to admit to having committed 20 sins
over the span of her life. Others, like Mrs. Murphy, canít recall a
single sin. Misled by the Church, these people are living under a
delusion. How else could someone like Mrs. Murphy claim to be without
sin, and yet weekly participate at Mass in the Penitential Rite? One of
the prayers recited by Catholics during this rite reads:
I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own
fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what
I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the
angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to
the Lord our God.