Is the giving of a penance by the priest at confession required, and is the performance of it necessary for the sacrament to be valid?
The priest is required to impose a penance, or satisfaction on the penitent. It should be helpful, prudent, just and suitable based on the kind and number of sins, and on the character and the condition of the penitent. The priest is only excused from imposing a penance when there is some physical or moral inability on the part of the penitent to perform it, e.g. if the penitent is near death, or too weak.
The penitent has a serious obligation to accept and fulfill the reasonable penance imposed by the confessor. If a penitent considers a penance unreasonable they are free to ask for another penance from the same or a different confessor.
The giving and fulfilling of the penance does not per se affect the validity of the absolution that is given, unless perchance the penitent approaches confession with such a determined will to refuse any penance that it affects the necessary contrition he must bring.
More often, the failure to give or fulfill a penance is due to forgetfulness, and in such cases the validity of the absolution is not affected. If however, the giving of or the fulfilling of a penance is intentionally neglected, while the validity of the absolution may not be affected, one does incur sin. The gravity of that sin is weightier if the material of the confession was grave, or serious.
When Holy Communion is distributed why is “The Body of Christ” said? Why not say, “The Body and Blood of Christ.”? Or better yet, “This is Jesus.”?
We use the word “body” for several reasons. First of all, Jesus himself used the word “body” (soma in Greek) when giving the Eucharist for the first time: “Take and eat this is my Body (soma).” Hence we, in conformity to Christ, use this way of speaking of the Eucharist.
Secondly, both the English word “body” and the Greek word “soma” can refer strictly to the physical dimension of a person, or more broadly to the whole person. In English, I can say, “My arm is part of my body.” Here I am referring to my physical dimension. However, I might also say, “I am somebody,” which refers not only to my physicality but to my whole self. We can also do this in the plural such as when we speak of the “body of believers,” or the “body‐politic.” Here we do not refer to a physical body, but rather to the sum total, or the majority of some group.
Hence, we do not exclude any dimension of Christ by referring to his “Body,” as if we were only referring to his flesh. Rather “Body” here refers to the whole Christ. Surely it pertains to a living human body (and Jesus is quite alive) to have not only flesh, but also blood and soul together. We also receive with his body, his divine nature since it is untied to him hypostatically.
And while we do speak of what is in the Chalice more specifically as the Blood of Christ, this is only to distinguish its species (i.e. what we perceive) from the host. But once again, Jesus is alive and glorified and his body, blood, soul and divinity are together. Hence, even in the smallest drop of Precious Blood, the whole Christ is received.
Jesus embraced the sinner. The Church reconciles women after abortion and has prison outreach. Why won’t the Church embrace homosexuals?
For the record, the Church does have an outreach to homosexual persons known as “Courage.” It emphasizes living the virtue of chastity by teaching that homosexuals live celibately. While many do except this outreach, it is also true many homosexuals reject this call to live celibately.
It is of course challenging for the Church to reach out to those homosexuals who insist that the only way we can “properly” minister to them is to accept wholeheartedly and uncritically what God teaches is sinful.
Jesus embraced sinners, but he also called them to repentance. Proper ministry, and love, is rooted in the truth of what God reveals. Scripture consistently and at every stage defines homosexual acts as gravely disordered and sinful. It also condemns fornication, adultery and incest.
We teach that God is changeless. But at some point the Second Person of the Trinity became man. How is this hypostatic union not a change in God?
Among other things, the answer to your question is caught up in a very deep mystery of God's relationship to time. In fact, many of our questions about God, and our struggle to understand Him, go back to this mystery.
The fact is, God does not dwell in time as you and I do. Rather, He dwells in the fullness of time, a mystery we call “eternity.” The word eternity does not simply mean a long, long time. Rather, eternity means “the fullness of time.” That is, past, present and future are all experienced at once.
To illustrate eternity, consider a clock. Let us say that the current time is 12 noon. For us who live in serial time, that means that 3 PM is in the future, and 9 AM is in the past. But now move your eyes to the center dot of the round clock face. At that center point, all three times 12 noon 9 AM and 3 PM, are equally present, and have the same relationship with that center dot.
This is an analogy of what we mean by eternity. Thus, for God, who is eternal, the future is just as present to him as the past. God is not waiting for things to happen, neither is he reminiscing on things past. All is present to him in a comprehensive “now.”
This is mysterious to us but helps illustrate why our questions about God are often wrong, even in the way we ask them. Thus, your question about whether God “changed” when Jesus became incarnate, presupposes that God lives in time as we do. But he does not.
While this approach may seem to be avoiding an answer to your question, we do well to meditate on the truth that we do not even know how to word our questions properly, let alone get simple answers. Change, as we define it, presupposes serial or chronological time. But God is not there. God is beyond such categories.
Thus we are right to conclude, as you observe, that God does not change. And yet He is able to interact with us who do change. But how exactly this is accomplished is mysterious to us and is caught up in our limited capacity to understand the mystery that we call time. In no sense is God waiting around to do things, like becoming man, nor is He changing as time goes along. All is present to him in a comprehensive now. God simply Is.
I am very careful to attend Mass each Sunday. However, next year I will make a nature trek in Nepal for 16 days and will be unable to attend Mass. Can I go even though I will miss at least two Sunday Masses?
While Mass attendance is required of a Catholic each Sunday unless there is a serious reason to miss (cf. Catechism 2181), when attendance is unreasonably difficult or impossible, one can be excused. Hence, things like inclement weather, significant health issues, and travel, especially in remote locations, will often excuse one.
There are legitimate values in the journey you wish to make that may, in fact, help you to appreciate the glory of what God has created. Hence, it would be hard to argue that the trip would not be of sufficient value to permit a limited absence from Mass, if this cannot be reasonably avoided.
Catholics are however, obliged to secure permission from their proper pastor (cf Canon Law, 1245) and thus you ought not fail to discuss the matter with him.
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