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February 26, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Are you interested in finding some good Lenten reading? Why not choose one or more of our books? The books available are Catholic Replies and Catholic Replies 2, All Generations Will Call Me Blessed, Who Do You Say That I Am?, Catholicism & Reason (Apologetics), Catholicism & Scripture (Salvation History), Catholicism & Society (Marriage and Family), Catholicism & Ethics (Medical/Moral Issues), and Catholicism & Life (Commandments and Sacraments). While they usually range in price from $10.95 to $17.95, you can purchase them at a special Lenten price of $5 each, plus $10 shipping for up to five books and $15 for more than five books.
All orders must be paid by check. You can learn more about these books by visiting our website at www.crpublications.com. Don’t order from the website, however, since it automatically charges full price.

Q. How is Jesus a descendant of David when Joseph was not Jesus’ father? — M.W., via e-mail.
A. Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but he was His legal father. Matthew traces the lineage of Joseph forward from Abraham through David (Matt. 1:1-16), concluding with these words: “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.” In his genealogy, Luke calls Jesus “the son, as was thought, of Joseph,” and traces His lineage through David and all the way back to Adam (cf. Luke 3:23-38). Matthew wanted to establish Jesus’ ties with the people of Israel, while Luke sought to identify Him as the Savior of all humanity.
Jesus is called the “son of David” seventeen times in the New Testament. He is the fulfillment of God’s words to Samuel, who was told to speak to David as follows:
“The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (1 Samuel 7:11-14).

Q. Regarding your recent advice about handling Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to the door, I dealt with them in a very friendly manner by asking if they had read any of the early Church Fathers (Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, et al.). Surprisingly, I found that the J.W.’s were interested. I learned the hard way not to go toe-to-toe with them by trying to discuss things like the Trinity or Jesus being Michael the Archangel. As you know, they come well-trained to discuss those issues, and you’ll waste a lot of time and get nowhere. But treating them respectfully and taking the conversation away from their training has worked — at least in my last two encounters.
A. Good for you.

Q. In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says that unless he become “too elated” with heavenly visions, God had given him “a thorn in the flesh . . . an angel of Satan, to beat me.” He says that “three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (12:7-9). What is this “thorn” that Paul is referring to? — T.H., via e-mail.
A. We don’t know for certain, but Scripture scholars have speculated that it could have been a sickness, a physical disability, or some obnoxious foe who continually harassed the Apostle. It was bothersome enough that Paul had asked God three times to remove this thorn, but he was resigned to the fact that God would give him sufficient grace to put up with this trial and to rely upon the Lord. “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, and constraints for the sake of Christ,” says Paul, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Q. Is it true that if one arranges a Mass to be said for a departed person, the benefit of the Mass applies right away, not when the Mass is actually said? In other words, if I arrange for a Mass in February, but the next open date on the priest’s calendar is in May, does the person benefit in February or May? — G.P., via e-mail.
A. The person does not benefit from the Mass until it is celebrated. When someone asks a priest to say a Mass for a deceased person, he makes a free-will offering to the priest. He is not buying the Mass since the Mass is of infinite value, but is rather asking the priest to apply a Mass for the person’s intention, and the priest is obligated under canon law to celebrate Mass for that particular intention.
We heard of a priest who had accepted many offerings, but had not celebrated the Masses. While sitting in his office one day, a book mysteriously fell off a shelf and landed on the floor. When the priest went to pick it up, he found the book being held open by several offerings for Masses. Needless to say, he then fulfilled his obligations.
By the way, there is no reason why you cannot offer prayers and devotions for the deceased person while you are waiting for the Mass to be said for him. He will benefit from your prayers, but not as much as from the reserved Mass.

Q. Your recent column regarding Joe Biden being automatically excommunicated because of his support for abortion disappointed me. You said that automatic excommunication “only applies to those who actually procure the abortion and those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.” But Biden has supported the legalization and funding of abortion, which makes him an accomplice without whose help the crime would not have been committed. Maybe I am nitpicking, and I do pray for politicians who support abortion and for Church leaders who fail to discipline them. I am often called upon to explain why Church leaders tolerate, and even praise, Biden and Nancy Pelosi instead of kicking them out. I bite my tongue to refrain from the truth that our Church is full of bureaucrats. I pray that we kick them out as we continue to pray for their souls. — C.G., via e-mail.
A. Sure, it would make faithful Catholics feel vindicated to see Biden, Pelosi, and other phony Catholics excommunicated for their blatant and shameless repudiation of Church teachings. But people a lot smarter than we are don’t think that’s the proper remedy under canon law. We have in the past quoted the words of the late moral theologian Msgr. William B. Smith, who said that it may well be that the number of abortions performed would not have occurred without the support of lawmakers like Biden and Pelosi, “but since it ‘may be’ so and is not patently clear causal participation in an actual abortion, then it seems to me this is outside the scope of canon 1329.2 and does not engage the penalty of excommunication.”
This does not mean that pro-abortion politicians are “off the hook,” Smith said. He explained that “we must never forget that abortion is the direct killing of a moral innocent (i.e., morally, it’s murder). By every standard, every direct and deliberate act of that kind (murder) is an objective offense against the natural law and divine positive law, from which no one on this planet is exempt. By definition, this is grave scandal and incompatible with being a practicing Catholic. Those who promote, sustain, and expand abortion cannot disentangle themselves completely from this grave sin and objective injustice.”
There is always the possibility, of course, that public sanctions again Biden and Pelosi might prompt them to change their ways. D.B. of Colorado sent us a newspaper article from 1990 about former Governor of New York Hugh Carey, a Catholic who supported Medicaid funding of abortion, but who switched sides after sanctions applied to him by Terence Cardinal Cooke and John Cardinal O’Connor. Carey said that his inability to receive Holy Communion left him feeling that he had “lost something. It’s like being unable to go to your mother’s house for a holiday.”
Asked whether a Catholic could be personally opposed to abortion, while supporting it publicly, Carey said, “That may be so in terms of . . . whether supermarkets are open on Sundays, but not when it’s a matter of life or death. I don’t think it’s just a Catholic teaching. That goes to the root of our society, whether or not you are required to protect life.”

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Catholic Replies

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