Tuesday 20th August 2019

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August 9, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. A recent Mass reading talks about Abram’s interaction with Melchizedek, the king of Salem. What do we know about Melchizedek? — F.A., via e-mail.
A. Melchizedek was a king and priest who lived at the time of Abram (later Abraham). When Abram learned that a group of kings had seized all the food and possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken his nephew Lot prisoner, he mustered more than 300 men, defeated the kings in battle, and rescued Lot. When he returned from his victory, Abram was greeted by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram with these words: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, / the creator of heaven and earth; / And blessed be God Most High, / who delivered your foes into your hand” (Gen. 14:18-20).
In the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Melchizedek’s name means “righteous king, and he was also ‘king of Salem,’ that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Heb. 7:3).
In his Catholic Bible Dictionary, Scott Hahn says that Melchizedek is a “foreshadowing of Jesus Christ” for four reasons. First, he is both a king and a priest. Second, he ruled over the city of Salem, which Jewish tradition has identified with Jerusalem, and Jesus will rule over the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). Third, Melchizedek and Jesus are both without “father, mother, or ancestry,” which does not mean that they were parentless, but rather that “neither was bound by the requirements laid down for the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant.” Fourth, Melchizedek also foreshadows Jesus “in making bread and wine his signature offering” (pp. 598-599).

Q. At Mass this morning, which was the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the priest referred to her as a prostitute. Is that true? — A.M., via e-mail.
A. While there is a perception that Magdalene had been a prostitute before she met Jesus, there is nothing in Scripture to support that characterization. The rumor stems from the fact that the first mention of the woman from Magdala occurs in Luke 8:2, just two verses after the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them with an ointment that she carried in an alabaster jar. That woman was publicly known in the city as a sinner, and presumably her sin was prostitution, but there is nothing in the Bible to equate her with Magdalene.
In Luke 8:2, it says that Jesus cast “seven demons” out of Mary Magdalene. Some of the early Church Fathers speculated that this might have been a reference to the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth. But whatever the truth might be, Mary has long been recognized as a great saint in the Church.
She has been called the “Apostle to the Apostles,” since she was the first person to see Jesus publicly after the Resurrection (He surely appeared privately to His Mother that Easter morning) and reported the awesome news to the Twelve.

Q. In our last parish bulletin, we were dismayed to read under the “Being Pro-Life” heading that “each month an important life topic is covered in an engaging interview with someone personally affected by the issue….Past topics are still available to watch on abortion, assisted suicide, and undocumented immigrants.”
How did these illegal caravans of people looking for the benefits in the United States that their home countries fail to offer become equivalent to persons killed in abortion facilities? Our local pro-lifers certainly do not accept the parallel and wonder how the archdiocese could make it. Do you have any explanation for this disturbing inclusion of immigrants with those who are being killed for reasons of convenience? — D.G., Ohio.
A. First of all, it is not wrong to be concerned about the lives of immigrants entering our country illegally. After all, we are supposed to “welcome the stranger,” but this does not mean opening our borders willy-nilly to those who might harm us. A prudential immigration policy is not at odds with Catholic teaching. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (n. 2241).
The same paragraph goes on to say, however, that “political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws, and to assist in carrying civil burdens.”
But that is not the situation today. It is clear that some of those facilitating this mass migration are intent on harming our country by overwhelming our resources to handle this influx of hundreds of thousands of persons, some of whom surely are terrorists. More than a thousand persons from African countries recently crossed our southern border. How did they get to Latin America? Who paid their plane fare? Are they truly persons seeking asylum from horrible conditions in their own countries?
It’s hard to answer these questions in the face of the chaos caused by such huge numbers of persons trying to get into the United States.
Why did your archdiocese put illegal immigration on a par with abortion as a pro-life issue? Probably because Pope Francis has done so. In his apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness (Gaudete et Exsultate), the Holy Father placed “defense of the innocent unborn” on the same level as defense of “the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection” (n. 101).
He said that “we often hear it said that with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him (cf. Matt. 25:35)?” (n. 102).
There is one prominent American churchman who has put respect for life in proper perspective and that is Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia. Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania on November 7, 2011, Archbishop Chaput said:
“Working against abortion doesn’t license us to ignore the needs of the homeless or the poor, the elderly or the immigrant. It doesn’t absolve us from supporting women who find themselves pregnant or abandoned. All human life, no matter how wounded, flawed, young, or old, is sacred because it comes from God. The dignity of a human life and its right to exist are guaranteed by God. Catholic teaching on abortion and sexuality is part of the same integral vision of the human person that fuels Catholic teaching on economic justice, racism, war, and peace.”
The archbishop went on to point out, however, that “these issues don’t all have the same content. They don’t all have the same weight. All of them are important, but some are more foundational than others. Without a right to life, all other rights are contingent….
“Society is not just a collection of sovereign individuals with appetites moderated by the state. It’s a community of interdependent persons and communities of persons; persons who have human obligations to one another, along with their human rights. One of those obligations is to not intentionally kill the innocent. The two pillars of Catholic social teaching are respect for the sanctity of the individual and service to the common good. Abortion violates both.”

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Catholic Replies

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