I have been asked recently if I am Christian or Catholic? What kind of question is this, and how should I answer it?
You are right to be annoyed and find offense. Catholics are Christian, indeed the original Christians. We have been here all 2000 years, and are the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself.
It is sadly true, that there are some who polemically and rhetorically ask, “Are you Catholic or Christian?” as if the two categories were mutually exclusive. They are not. It would be like asking a certain man, “Are you male or human?” And of course, the answer is both and the question as stated is offensive. And the same answer is true here, that Catholics are also Christians.
Unfortunately, not all Christians are Catholic. And this is a countersign, because Christ founded one Church, and has one Body, he prayed for unity, not endless divisions. He did not found tens of thousands of different disputing denominations. He established one Church which he founded, and unified around his vicar, Peter and his successors, the popes who are designated to unify and strengthen the others whom the devil would sift (separate) like wheat (cf Luke 22:31).
The word “Catholic,” while often used as a proper noun, is also an adjective. The word catholic comes from the Greek, and means “according to the whole.” And this is understood in at least two ways. First of all, the Church is Catholic, because we preach the whole counsel of Christ, not just certain favorite passages or popular viewpoints. We are called to preach the whole Gospel, whether in season or out of season.
Secondly, the Church is called catholic, because we are called to a universal outreach to all the nations. We are not just a church of a certain race or nation, we are called to go on to the ends of the earth, and make disciples of all nations. The Church has a “catholic,” that is a universal, mission to everyone.
And thus, the Catholic Church is the Christian Church, and all Christians are called to be Catholic. It is for this unity that we must lovingly strive.
Is there an appropriate name for our Savior in the context of certain situations? Should we refer to him as Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus etc.?
As your question suggests, exactly how we address Jesus will vary in certain contexts. Perhaps it is most important to distinguish at the outset that “Christ,” is not part of Jesus’ proper name, but rather, it is his title. In this sense, it sometimes helps to put the definite article “the” in front of Christ, saying, “Jesus the Christ,” to remind us that “Christ” is not his surname. Jesus is “the Christ,” Which means, "the anointed one" and translates the Hebrew word “Messiah.”
His proper name, "Jesus" means, in Hebrew, “God saves.” To put all of this together in English, his name and title might be rendered “Anointed Lord and Savior.”
While it is certainly fine for us to call him simply by his proper name, “Jesus,” in the formal liturgy of the Church we often speak of him more fully, such as, “Christ our Lord,” or “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” and so forth.
All this said, it must be added that there are over 100 titles of Jesus, and ways of referring to him in the Scriptures which can also be appropriate ways of referring to him in certain circumstances. For example he is called: Alpha and Omega, Author and Finisher of our faith, Son of David, Son of Man, Good Shepherd, Emanuel, I AM, King of Israel, the Way the Truth and the Life, Light of the World, Redeemer, Teacher, Rabbi, Son of God, Son of Mary, True Vine, and so forth. There are more than 100 other such titles.
Thus, we do well to remember that the magnificent truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord, often requires us to speak of him in many ways, pondering his glory from many different perspectives through these titles.
Many people I know travel over the state border here to purchase things, especially alcoholic beverages, since the nearby state’s sales tax is much lower. Are there moral objections to avoiding taxes in cases like this?
Let me state at the outset that I am not a civil lawyer. But let us suppose that there are legitimate laws in place that forbid purchasing and carrying certain items across state lines. Presuming such laws do exist, they ought not to be violated. This would be true even if we suppose that such laws are more likely aimed at large distributors, rather than private citizens. Unless that exception is explicitly indicated in the law or overruled by other constitutional rights, we ought not to simply consider ourselves exempt.
It is a general norm for Catholics that we should obey all just laws enacted by civil authorities if they do not violate God's laws. If such laws displease us, we ought to have recourse, through the political process, to change them, rather than simply ignore them.
If a Catholic knowingly violates just civil laws such as this, the gravity of such a sin varies, based on the frequency, purpose and amount of items purchased. If one were to simply purchase a small number of items, more as a convenience, the gravity of such sin would be rather light. However, if one were to repeatedly purchase a large amount of items, especially if they were going to resell them, this would be a much more egregious violation of civil law, and also bring with it a more significant gravity in violation of moral law related to the 4th Commandment.
I don't think St. Joseph gets the recognition he deserves. We rightly speak a lot of mother Mary, and certainly of Jesus. But Joseph is often relegated to the background. Why is this so, and should it change?
Yes, more should be said of St. Joseph, especially today when fatherhood is in such crisis. St. Joseph was a strong man, who was willing to sacrifice career and personal comfort to protect and care for his family. St. Joseph listened to God and did what he was instructed to do in the obedience of faith. Here is a powerful model for men and fathers today. St. Joseph is often preached on at men's conferences.
That said, the reserve in emphasizing Joseph extends to the Scriptures themselves. This is not due to any neglect of St. Joseph personally, but extends from the emphasis that the true Father of Jesus is God the Father. Thus, Joseph’s role as foster father steps to the background after the early infancy narratives.
Nevertheless, your point remains valid. We ought not be overly forgetful of St. Joseph. Even if what we know of Joseph from the Scriptures is very limited, what we do know is powerfully inspiring and should be emphasized.
In our Catholic faith we believe in the resurrection of the body. The Scripture states that in the kingdom there is neither male nor female. Does this mean that our body will not be resurrected in its full earthly form?
It seems that you're referring to what Paul writes in Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Here St. Paul is indicating that there is no difference in terms of dignity. In other words, whatever distinctions there are between us, even essential distinctions, there remains the truth that we are all equal in dignity before God, whose children we are.
But this equality in dignity does not mean there is no difference in essence. Clearly, being male or female is a distinction that goes to the very depths of our being, including our soul. And thus, when our body rises, we will indeed be male or female.
Perhaps, in the context of your question, it is also good for us to reflect on a common modern error that reduces sexual distinctions to a merely incidental, surface quality about the physical characteristics of the body. But this is not so. The soul is the form of the body. That is to say, it is the identity of the soul and its capacities that give rise to the design of the body. Hence, a person’s sex is not simply an incidental quality of their body, but is an aspect of their person that extends from the depths of their soul. Human persons do not just have a male or female body, they are male or female.
The most extreme form of reducing sex to a merely incidental quality of the body, is illustrated in those who engage in so-called "sex change" operations, as if simply altering the body surgically could change a person's sexual identity. It cannot. Scripture says, God made them, male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27). Our identity as male or female extends to our inmost being, and cannot simply be shed like clothing is.
Hence, when we rise, we will indeed be male and female. Further, even before the resurrection of the body, our soul remains male or female.
Does the Pope have the authority to overturn pronouncements of previous popes, for example, in matters of contraception and the ordination of women?
We must distinguish between different types of law and teaching. There are certain laws and precepts that are ceremonial and customary practices, or merely disciplinary rules. These can be changed, and are changed from time to time. For example, things such as the kinds and types of vestments and other regalia worn by the clergy and other merely ceremonial aspects of the liturgy can be changed. Disciplinary norms such as curial structures, canonical penalties, etc. can also be changed.
But in matters of defined doctrine by the Magisterium regarding faith and morals, rooted in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, or from previous Popes and Councils, the Pope is bound to uphold them. There are some technical debates about what is definitively taught that are too technical to set forth in this short answer. But the two matters, which you cite, are certainly teachings to which the Pope is bound and may not overturn.
I am a bit confused about the Catechism’s treatment of acedia. What does the Catechism mean to teach by this sin? And how is it related to joy?
The more common word for acedia is “sloth,” one of the seven deadly sins. Unfortunately, most simply equate sloth with laziness. Although sloth can manifest as laziness, it manifests other aspects as well.
Fundamentally, sloth is a sorrow or sadness, an aversion, toward the good things that God is offering us. And thus, the Catechism teaches, Acedia or spiritual sloth, goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God, and to be repelled by divine goodness. (# 2094).
The proper response to the good things that God offers us is joy. We should be joyful at the offer of a holy life, set free from sin and gloriously open to the love of God and others.
But the sinful drive of sloth influences many to respond to this offer with sadness and aversion. Perhaps it would involve too many changes, and many prefer to avoid change and fear it. Frankly, many like their sins, preferring to indulge their lower nature. Sloth therefore perceives God's gracious offer as a threat and moves to oppose it. We do this in obvious and subtle ways.
While sloth often manifests as a kind of boredom, aversion, or laziness toward spiritual things, one can also see it at work in the kind of frantic indulgence and workaholism common today. Indeed, many indulge in an excessive activism in the world of politics, career, business, and other worldly pursuits. In no way are they lazy, but they often use frantic activism to avoid the spiritual contemplation of God or the things of God. The claim becomes, “I am too busy to pray, get to Church, or attend to moral and spiritual reflection, the reading of Scripture or the study of my faith. Such people are not lazy, per se, but they are averse to spiritual things and prefer worldly pursuits. And this too is sloth.
Thus, sloth is best understood as a sorrow or aversion to the good things that God offers. It is a deep and sinful drive rooted in a disordered preference for passing worldly things. We must ask for a joy for spiritual and eternal things and zeal to cultivate a deeper desire for God and the things of heaven, for our fallen flesh is strongly opposed to the desires of the spirit (cf Gal 5:17).
We learn that God loves us unconditionally. But then why is there Hell? That doesn’t seem unconditional.
Perhaps you would agree that if someone loves someone else, that love would not include him forcing his will on the other. And while it is certainly true that the Lord wills to save everyone, he does not force us to accept his. God is not a slave driver, he is Love and love invites us to freely accept his offer of an eternal relationship.
While some think that everyone wants to go to heaven, generally they have a heaven in mind of their own design. But the real heaven is not merely a human paradise; it is the Kingdom of God and all its fullness. In heaven is celebrated: Charity, worship of God, truth, chastity, forgiveness, esteem of the poor, humility etc. And yet there are many who reject some or all of these values. Why would a loving God force people to enter into the eternal place which celebrates things they reject?
Hence, the existence of Hell is not opposed to God's love. It is in conformity with the respect necessary for our freedom to accept or reject the relationship of love. Mysteriously, many come to a place in their life where they definitively reject God, and the values of the Kingdom he offers.
I was told Jesus is without sin. But on Easter, at Mass I heard a reading that said, “Jesus died to sin.” Which is true?
You are quoting Romans 6:10 which says, "the death he died, he died to sin, once for all.” In saying that Christ “died to sin,” St. Paul is not saying he died on account of his own personal sins. The Greek word hamartia (Sin), Is often used by St. Paul to refer to our own personal sins. But it is also used to refer in a more collective sense to the sin of the world. For, this fallen world of ours, is immersed in sin, in an attitude of rebellion pride, greed, lust, and so forth. And this climate of sin, is like a force, a mindset, initiated by Satan, and connived in by human beings. It is to this world of sin that Christ died. He broke its back, by dying to it, and rising victorious over it. And he defeated it in the most paradoxical way: he conquered pride, by humility, disobedience by obedience, and death, by dying and rising.
It is to this regime of sin, that Christ died, not his own personal sins of which scripture is clear, he had none. (cf 1 Peter 2: 22)
In the same chapter (6:2, 11), we are taught to realize that we too have died to sin, and that this world of sin is to have no more power over us. We must come to experience increasing power, authority, and victory over the influence of this world of sin. We are to lay hold of the life which Christ offers us wherein this world of sin has no more power over us.
Why do some of the gospel accounts of the resurrection say three women went to the tomb and others say only one? There also seem to be other differences. If these contradictions are real, how can I deal with them?
The resurrection accounts in the gospels do have some differences in detail. How many women went out to the tomb that morning, one (Jn 20:21), two (Matt 28:1), or three (Mk 16:1)? How many angels did they see that morning, one (Matt 28:2; Mk 16:5) or two (Lk 24:4; Jn 20:12)? Did the women run to the disciples and tell what they had seen (Mt 28:8; Lk 24:9) or did they say nothing out of fear (Mk 16:8)? Did Jesus see them first in Galilee (Mk 16:7; Mt 28:9) or in Jerusalem (Lk 24:36)? Among the Apostles, did he appear to Peter first (Lk 24:34), all eleven at once (Mt. 28:16), or the eleven minus Thomas (Jn 20:24)? Did Jesus appear to them in a room (Jn 20:19) or a mountaintop (Mt 28:16)? Lastly, did Jesus ascend on Easter Sunday (Lk 24:50-53; Mk 16:19) or forty days later (Acts 1:3-9)?
Most of these apparent discrepancies are not actual conflicts upon closer examination and are easily explained. We cannot look at them all in a short column. But as to your specific question, it would seem most likely that several women went out that morning. That John only focuses on Magdalene is not a denial that others were there. Matthew and Mark, in saying two or three may not be engaging in a headcount per se, but engaging in generalization, such as when we say words like, couple or several.
We should not be surprised that there are some differences in the accounts. Even today, eyewitnesses of an event often emphasize certain details and have different recollections as to the particulars. People often summarize longer stories as well and speak only of essentials. This does not mean that the event did not happen or that unmentioned details by one person is in conflict with details mentioned by another. Given the numerous times Jesus appeared and the many people who saw him, we should not be surprised to find certain differences in the accounts. In this light the differences actually lend credibility to the gospel accounts, which do not try to paper over them, but realistically report them. (See Catechism #s 642-643)
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