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May 3, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In the Gospel of Mark (14:51-52), it mentions a young man who followed Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane “wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.” Many scholars think that the young man was Mark himself. Do we know that for a fact? — D.M., via e-mail.
A. No, we don’t, but it is a reasonable speculation. Mark may have chosen to remain anonymous because his flight from the Garden did not put him in the most flattering light. In her excellent commentary on The Gospel of Mark, Scripture scholar Mary Healy says this about the incident:
“Who is this young man, and why is he wearing only a linen cloth on a chilly night in April? One traditional suggestion is that the man is Mark himself, in whose house Jesus may have celebrated the Last Supper. Linen was a fabric of the wealthy, and the absence of an undergarment suggests that the youth may have dressed quickly to follow Jesus to Gethsemane. Perhaps he was there in the shadows, listening to Jesus’ prayer of anguish. Although ‘all’ flee after the arrest, the young man follows Jesus, the action characteristic of a disciple. But when seized he too gives way to fear. Nakedness is a sign of misery and shame (see James 2:15; Rev. 3:18), and the young man’s desertion is all the more poignant in that he prefers to run away naked than to follow Jesus all the way to his passion.”
Healy says that “this episode is a real-life parable illustrating the failure of the disciples. There may also be an illusion to Amos’ prophecy of the fearful judgment to fall on the day of the Lord: ‘the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord’ (Amos 2:16). No one can bear the divine wrath that is crashing in on Jesus. He goes to his passion totally alone” (p. 296).

Q. What would be the protocol if Pope Francis predeceases Pope Emeritus Benedict? Would there be a protocol for Benedict to return as Pope while a new conclave is arranged, or does his resignation disqualify him from returning even on an interim basis? Also, would Pope Benedict have any say in the matter if he outlived Pope Francis? — P.H., New York.
A. We doubt if there is any protocol for such an unusual situation. We can only guess that Benedict would not return as interim Pope, and that a conclave would be convened to elect a Successor to Francis, just as if there were not a former Pope still living. We doubt if Benedict would have any say on what should be done until a new Holy Father is chosen.

Q. Why did the Jerusalem crowds welcome Jesus with great enthusiasm on Palm Sunday only to reject Him so soundly just a few days later? — G.P., via e-mail.
A. Mob psychology, perhaps. We know how fickle large crowds can be, whether at a political rally or at a sporting event. It doesn’t take much to get them whipped up either for or against someone or something. The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was a joyous event, and the pilgrims coming to the city for Passover must have been caught up in the excitement of welcoming a popular teacher and preacher.
Why the frenzied opposition to Jesus five days later, even after Pontius Pilate had three times proclaimed Him innocent of any crime? For one thing, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the Pharisees, who had been seeking the death of Jesus ever since He raised Lazarus from the dead, had spent the five days organizing opposition to the Lord. They had been handed the opportunity by Judas to arrest Jesus in a secluded place where His thousands of admirers could not protect Him, they had staged a mock trial in the middle of the night and found Him guilty of blasphemy, and they had marched Him to the fortress of Pilate, seeking Roman approval to execute Him.
Pilate tried repeatedly to release Jesus, offering the crowd a choice between freeing Jesus or a murderer named Barabbas and even having Jesus brutally scourged in the hope that that torture would satisfy the mob. But the enemies of Christ had undoubtedly been circulating through the crowd, urging them to demand crucifixion for Jesus, and surely Satan was there that day trying to humiliate his greatest foe.
Remember that after Jesus had overcome Satan’s three temptations in the desert, Luke says in his Gospel that “when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time” (Luke 4:13).
Well, that next time had come and Satan had probably been in the Garden of Gethsemane, trying to persuade Jesus to abandon His mission of salvation, and he must have been in the crowd on Good Friday as well.
Pilate had ignored the warning of his wife, who urged him to “have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him” (Matt. 27:19), and he caved in to the mob when they shouted that if he released Jesus, he would be no “Friend of Caesar,” the Roman emperor, because “everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).

Q. I am a longtime Wanderer reader and am writing about the controversy mentioned in the March 28 issue concerning the involvement of Catholic Relief Services with government programs promoting contraception and abortion. This came to mind in the Old Testament reading from Daniel on April 8, when Susanna said of the two lustful men that “it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord” (Daniel 13:23).
We know that we cannot bring forth good from evil. We also know that the distribution of condoms destroys chastity, which then leads to all manner of problems, including sickness, destruction of the family through divorce, psychological problems for the affected children, and all sorts of perversion. What guidance does the Church provide in this controversy? — D.K.W, Ohio.
A. You are correct that we cannot use evil means to bring about good ends, and forcing contraception and abortion on the people of developing countries is evil. Many people in those countries value large families and they resent having economic assistance tied to acceptance of contraceptive practices. They do not want to fall under the power of the population controllers or to sin before the Lord. But it will be difficult for Catholic Relief Services to disengage itself from the web of USAID since it has become so dependent on government funding. Pray for a moral solution to this dilemma.
One bit of guidance on this matter comes from Pope St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on human life, Humanae Vitae. In the section on the responsibilities of public authorities, the Holy Father wrote:
“Do not allow the morality of your peoples to be degraded; do not permit that by legal means practices contrary to the natural and divine law be introduced into that fundamental cell, the family. Quite other is the way in which public authorities can and must contribute to the solution of the demographic problem, namely, the way of a provident policy for the family, and of a wise education of people in respect of moral law and the liberty of citizens.
“We are well aware of the serious difficulties experienced by public authorities in this regard, especially in the developing countries. To their legitimate preoccupations we devoted our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples). But with our Predecessor Pope John XXIII, we repeat: No solution to these difficulties is acceptable ‘which does violence to man’s essential dignity’ and is based only on an utterly materialistic concept of man himself and of his life.
“The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society and which respects and promotes true human values. Neither can one, without grave injustice, consider Divine Providence to be responsible for what depends, instead, on a lack of wisdom in government, on an insufficient sense of social justice, on selfish monopolization, or again on blameworthy indolence in confronting the efforts and the sacrifices necessary to ensure the raising of living standards of a people and of all its sons” (n. 23).

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