You Catholics pray to Saints but the Bible says there is only one mediator, Jesus. How can you justify this?
Jesus of course mediates a relationship with the Father in a way no one else can. No one comes to the Father except through Him. However, in terms of our relationship with him, Jesus has established things and people which help mediate our relationship with him: apostles, evangelists and teachers have roles of service to build up the body of Christ. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. Therefore, our relationship with Jesus is mediated by both Scripture and those whom the Lord sends to evangelize us.
You seem to understand "one mediator," in a completely univocal and absolute sense. If so, then you should never ask anyone to pray for you. Neither should you listen to a sermon or even read scripture. For these are things and people which mediate Christ to you in some sense.
Catholics do not hold that the prayers of Saints substitute for Christ's mediation, but rather are subordinate to it, and facilitated by him. For, as Head of the Body the Church, he creates a communion of all the members, allowing, and expecting that all the members of the body assist and support one another. This does not substitute for Christ's mediation, but rather, presupposes it.
It is an abbreviation for Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judeorum – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. In Latin the “I” and “J” are usually interchangeable and ancient Latin did not use the “J”. That is why it is INRI not JNRJ.
It was common for the Romans to hang a “titulus” or sign above the crucified to indicate the charges against him. Scripture says that Pilate put the charges in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
Pilate placed this title above Jesus in scorn and mockery rather than faith. He also likely knew it would irritate the Jewish leaders, which it did (see Jn 19:21).
Yet even in his ridicule, Pilate spoke truth. Jesus is King, not of the Jews only, but of all things.
I know women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men to be apostles. A priest recently said another reason is because of the nuptial meaning of the body. What does this mean?
To speak of the nuptial meaning of the body, means that the very design of our body orients us toward a marital relationship. The man is meant for the woman, the woman for the man. And in this complementary relationship which we call marriage, there is the fruitfulness of children. In effect, our body says to us, "You were made for another who will complement and complete you, making your love fruitful."
This is also an image for the spiritual life, wherein God speaks of his relationship to his people in marital imagery. Israel was frequently described as God's bride. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Groom and his Church is his bride. The Church and her members are called to relate to the Lord, to be completed by him and complemented by him such that their love bears fruit.
The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is also a sign of God's relationship to his people, he the groom, we the bride. Even celibates manifest the nuptial meaning of the human person. A priest is not a bachelor. He has a bride, the Church. Religious sisters also manifest a marital relationship, where Jesus is the Groom, they are his bride.
To speak, therefore, of the nuptial meaning of the body, is to insist that the sexual distinctions of male and female are not merely arbitrary physical aspects. Rather, they bespeak deeper, spiritual realities that we must learn to appreciate, and respect. Men and women are different, and manifest different aspects of God's relationship. Women manifest the glory of the Church as bride. Men manifest the glory of Christ as groom.
In terms of the priesthood, this is important, because Christ in his humanity, is not simply male, he is groom, and the sacred liturgy is a wedding feast; Christ the groom, intimately with his bride the Church.
Thus, your pastor is invoking rich theological teaching, which helps to explain one reason why Christ chose only men for the priesthood.
Our parish priest asked us at Mass which book of the New Testament was the oldest. Most of us said, Matthew. He said we were wrong, and that First Thessalonians was the oldest. This doesn't seem right does it?
When we speak of the age of a particular Book in the Bible we can speak about its age in terms of the events it describes, or of the likely date it was put into the written form we have today. Usually when scholars speak of the age of a Book they refer to the time of its appearance in final written form. And in this sense, it is largely accepted that the First Letter to the Thessalonians is probably the oldest book, the first of St. Paul’s letters, and written between 51‐52 AD.
The writing of a letter in the New Testament was a fairly straight‐forward process and, while St. Paul and others may have had made some final edits, or even a second draft, it is likely he dictated it to a scribe, who wrote it and then had it sent within a matter of days. Other copies may also have been made and circulated.
The emergence of the Gospels in written form was a much more complicated process. And while the events they detail are older (from the early 30s AD), the writing out of these events went through several stages.
Obviously the first stage of the Gospels was the actual events themselves, the words and deeds of Jesus. But it will be noted that Jesus did not write a book, or even say to the Apostles, “Go write a book.” Rather, he sent them to preach, teach, and baptize disciples into the life of his Body, the Church.
Thus, the second stage was the oral stage wherein the Apostles went forth proclaiming what Jesus taught and did and who Jesus is. During this time the teachings began to be written by scribes, collected and circulated.
And thus, we begin to see the written stage. The idea that Matthew or John just sat down and wrote the gospel is probably inaccurate. Recall that most people could not write in the ancient world. Scribes and others acted as secretaries for the author who helped refine and edit the final product. Some think that Mark was Peter’s assistant and scribe.
Gradually the gospels were collected and edited in what came to be their final form, as we know them. The exact dates and order of their final form are hotly debated topics among scholars. However, it is safe to say that the four gospels took their final form between 60 and 90 AD, some time after St. Paul had sent his letters.
A friend who grew up in the Russian Orthodox Church married a man from the Roman Catholic Church. They had a Catholic wedding and she now practices Roman Catholicism. She said she did not have to do anything to become Catholic. Is that correct?
No. She should speak to her pastor and request formal acceptance into full communion with the Catholic Church. There are also some protocols that are observed in receiving members from the Orthodox churches that will need some attention (see Code of Canon Law for Eastern Churches, Canons 35, and 896‐901). While she would not need to receive sacraments, her formal reception into the Catholic Church is covered by these norms and protocols, which exist to show respect for the Rite from which she came. If she wishes to practice the Latin Rite, that can be done; but there are procedures to be followed.
I never understood the Baptism of Christ, since he is sinless and born of a sinless mother. Please explain.
It is clear, that Jesus was without sin (e.g., Heb 4:15). Even as Jesus approaches John for baptism, John instinctively protests. However, the Lord explains, saying, Let it be now so in order to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15).
Jesus is referring to the righteousness (justice) of God. God’s justice is his fidelity to his promises. And God had promised to send us a Messiah to go ahead of us and lead us out of sin, and into righteousness.
At the River Jordan, Jesus is like Moses, who did not just tell the people to cross the Red Sea, he went ahead, courageously leading them through the stormy waters. Jesus does no less. And does not tell us merely to go to the waters of baptism; he leads us through baptism, out of slavery, into freedom.
The liturgy of the Church speaks of Jesus not being made holy by the waters, but making the waters holy to bless us.
Jesus also does this with the “baptism” of the whole Paschal mystery. He does not merely tell us to take up a cross, he takes up his cross and bids us follow him. He does not merely point to the hill of Calvary; he leads us up over that hill and unto glory.
This is God's righteousness, his justice, this is his fidelity to his promises.
Another aspect of Jesus’ baptism is the remarkable fact that he identifies with sinners, though he himself is not a sinner. He is not ashamed to call us his brethren (Heb 2:11). He who was sinless, was seen as a great sinner, and crucified publicly. Such love, such emptying, such humility. For the Lord conquers Satan's pride, and ours, by astonishing humility. And in this too, Jesus “fulfills all righteousness” by being Baptized, going into the waters ahead of us.
There is often much controversy this time of the year around the phrase, “Merry Christmas.” Some people love the phrase, while others appear to despise it.
Whatever a person’s preference may be, the origin of the phrase is loaded with spiritual meaning.
First of all, one of the earliest records of the phrase comes from St. John Fisher, who wrote it in a letter to Thomas Cromwell in 1534:
This I beseech you to grant me of your charity. And for this our Lord God send you a merry Christmas and a comfortable to your heart’s desire.
Often today the word “merry” is used to denote a general feeling of merriment. Yet, this doesn’t appear to be the case for St. John Fisher.
Francis Xavier Weiser explains the origin of this phrase in his book Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs:
When this greeting was originally used, the word merry did not mean “joyful, hilarious,” as it does today. In those days it meant “blessed, peaceful, pleasant,” expressing spiritual joys rather than earthly happiness.
The well-known carol “God rest you merry, gentlemen” is an excellent example of the original meaning of merry. The position of the comma clearly shows the true meaning (that the word is not an adjective describing “gentlemen”), and therefore is not “God rest you, joyful gentlemen,” but “God rest you peacefully, gentlemen.”
This revelation makes the phrase, “Merry Christmas,” even more spiritual (and possibly more controversial).
If you want to wish someone a spiritually joyful Christmas, go right ahead and say to them, “Merry Christmas!”
The liturgical season of Advent marks the time of spiritual preparation by the faithful before Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30). It spans four Sundays and four weeks of preparation, although the last week of Advent is usually truncated because of when Christmas falls. (For instance, some years, the fourth Sunday of Advent is obviously on Sunday, and then that evening is Christmas Eve.)
The celebration of Advent has evolved in the spiritual life of the Church. The historical origins of Advent are hard to determine with great precision. In its earliest form, beginning in France, Advent was a period of preparation for the Feast of the Epiphany, a day when converts were baptized; so the Advent preparation was very similar to Lent with an emphasis on prayer and fasting which lasted three weeks and later was expanded to 40 days. In 380, the local Council of Saragossa, Spain, established a three-week fast before Epiphany. Inspired by the Lenten regulations, the local Council of Macon, France, in 581 designated that from November 11 (the Feast of St. Martin of Tours) until Christmas fasting would be required on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Eventually, similar practices spread to England. In Rome, the Advent preparation did not appear until the sixth century, and was viewed as a preparation for Christmas with less of a penitential bent.
The Church gradually formalized the celebration of Advent as a period of spiritual preparation for Christmas. The Gelasian Sacramentary, traditionally attributed to Pope St. Gelasius I (d. 496), was the first to provide Advent liturgies for five Sundays. Later, Pope St. Gregory I (d. 604) enhanced these liturgies composing prayers, antiphons, readings, and responses. Pope St. Gregory VII (d. 1095) later reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to four. Finally, about the ninth century, the Church designated the first Sunday of Advent as the beginning of the Church year.
Despite the “sketchy” history behind Advent, the importance of this season remains to focus on the coming of our Lord. (The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming.”) The Catechism stresses the two-fold meaning of this “coming”: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming” (#524).
Therefore, on one hand, the faithful reflect back and are encouraged to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s first coming into this world. We ponder again the great mystery of the incarnation when our Lord humbled Himself, taking on our humanity, and entered our time and space to free us from sin. On the other hand, we recall in the Creed that our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead and that we must be ready to meet Him.
In all, during Advent we strive to fulfill the opening prayer for the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent: “Father in Heaven,… increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of His coming may find us rejoicing in His presence and welcoming the light of His truth.”
Why do Catholics make a big deal out of Thanksgiving? Isn't it just a secular holiday?
Thanksgiving is obviously a secular holiday, commemorating the good fortune the Puritans found in the New World, a good fortune that we Americans share to this day.
But the Thanksgiving legend has so many religious, and Catholic, overtones.
The first Thanksgiving feast shared by the Puritans and the Wampanoag tribe was arranged by Squanto, a Native American who had been catechized by Spanish Dominican Friars. Squanto had been captured by an English party led by Capt. John Smith, which planned to sell him into slavery. The Dominicans rescued him, instructed him in the Catholic faith, and helped him get to England so he could return to his people.
Squanto helped the Puritans survive by teaching them to hunt, fish and grow corn and then tried to help the Wampanoag tribe build a peaceful relationship with the Puritans, one that sadly did not survive.
The thanksgiving feast between the Wampanoag tribe and the Puritans wasn’t the first celebration of thanksgiving on American shores. More than 50 years before the Puritans established the Plymouth Colony in present day Massachusetts, a group of Spanish colonists celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and had a feast with members of the Timucuan tribe near present-day St. Augustine, Florida.
In 1598, another group of Spaniards celebrated their successful crossing of the desert in northern Mexico and southern Texas with a Mass and a feast with the indigenous people of the area along the Rio Grande.
When those Spanish priests stopped to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving, it was a most Catholic thing to do. It is part of our faith as Catholics to give thanks to God for the many blessings he has bestowed on us. Most importantly, we give thanks for the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for the forgiveness of our sins. In our Catholic view of the world, that gift is the most powerful of all of God’s gifts.
As Catholics, we celebrate Thanksgiving every time we go to Mass. The very word eucharist comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving and is a reminder that as followers of Christ we have so very much to be thankful for. We are thankful for his love and his mercy. We are thankful for the Catholic faith that has been passed on to us by the Communion of Saints. In our gratitude, we find peace and joy.
Our experience as Catholics shows the path to a fulfilling and joyful life. To be happy, be grateful. But we can’t stop there. We are called to share our gratitude and our blessings with others. That is the lesson of the Thanksgiving feast.
So, for this Thanksgiving and every day that will follow, we should look beyond our immediate family to share our blessings. Be the face and hands and feet of Christ to all you encounter. Share the mercy and love God has showered upon us. Gather not only around the dinner table but at the altar where we celebrate the eucharistic thanksgiving.
When we do that, we will infuse this secular holiday with the Catholic faith.
While the Catechism technically permits the death penalty, it, and the bishops, foresee its use as rare if ever. If capital punishment is foresworn in all cases, a criminal often lives to commit another atrocity. Is society not left helpless?
There are many complexities in discussing the death penalty, because there is some tension between the traditional doctrine regarding it, and the modern pastoral setting.
Unlike abortion, capital punishment is not an intrinsic moral evil for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in certain settings, the use of the death penalty has served the common good; ensuring that dangerous criminals are no longer able to cause harm. In punishing grave offenders, others can be deterred from capital crimes too. Secondly, Scripture does not forbid the practice. Even in the New Testament, St. Paul speaks to the State’s right to punish grave offenders in this way, and even indicates that, in so doing, it acts as a minister of God's justice on the wrong‐doer. (see Rom 13:4).
The Church cannot simply overrule scripture and declare intrinsically evil, what God permits in certain circumstances. However, that Scripture permits the death penalty in certain circumstances, does not mean that it is always wise or prudent to promote such punishment.
In the modern pastoral setting, recent Popes, and the bishops of the world, have taught that recourse to the death penalty should be rare if ever. A significant part of this prudential judgment is rooted in concern for what Pope John Paul called the “culture of death.”
The culture of death is a mindset wherein the death or nonexistence of human beings is increasingly proposed as a solution to problems. Abortion, euthanasia, and quick recourse warfare or other violent means, along with the antilife mentality of contraception, are widely promoted in our culture as a way to solve problems. The Church stands foursquare against such thinking.
And even though the death penalty has received reluctant approval in the past, the current pastoral setting seems to require that the Church stand consistently against yet another way wherein death is proposed as a solution to the regrettable problem of crime.
The criminal assault that many have experienced is regrettable. More needs to be done to keep serious and threatening offenders off our streets. However, given the wider pastoral setting, it is the consensus of recent Popes and the world's bishops that standing against all facets of the culture of death is an important pastoral posture to maintain, even if our tradition does permit the death penalty in very rare circumstances.
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