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October 8, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. After reading a column in a recent issue of The Wanderer, I have to ask, was Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, the same woman as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus? — B.R., via e-mail.
A. What we do know for certain about Mary Magdalene is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (cf. Luke 8:2), that she and other women, including Joanna and Susanna, journeyed with Jesus and provided for His and the apostles’ material needs out of their own resources, that she was a witness of the crucifixion and burial of the Savior, and that she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared publicly after His Resurrection from the dead. We also know that when she told the apostles that she had seen Jesus alive, they did not believe her.
Modern-day fiction writers, such as Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code, have sought to portray Magdalene in a romantic relationship with Jesus, with some even going so far as to contend that she was married to the Lord. This is nonsense, of course, and there is nothing in Scripture or in any credible historical writings to support such a bizarre theory.
Nor is there any evidence to support the characterization of Magdalene as a prostitute before she met Jesus. The rumor apparently comes from the fact that the first mention of the woman from Magdala occurs in Luke 8:2, just a few verses after the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with a precious 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 Scripture that would equate her with Magdalene.
As for whether Magdalene is the same woman as Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, there is a tradition going back at least to Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) that they are the same person. For one thing, there is a similar anointing of Jesus in Bethany, when “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair” (John 12:3). So it is possible that the two Marys are the same person, but decisive evidence is lacking.

Q. When a priest genuflects at Mass, which knee does he genuflect on? I have seen most priests during the Consecration genuflect on the right knee, but some genuflect on the left knee. Is there a rule or tradition about this? — J.C., via e-mail.
A. Priests traditionally genuflect by bending their right knee, but a priest with problems in his right knee could bend his left knee. Or in cases where both legs are impaired, priests are allowed to make a reverent bow. Here are the relevant passages from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:
“A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
“During Mass, three genuflections are made by the Priest Celebrant: namely, after the elevation of the Host, after the elevation of the Chalice, and before Communion” (n. 274).

Q. People often say that time is going so fast or that the weeks and months seem to fly by. I seem to recall a scriptural passage that read in essence, “Let those days be shortened lest the greater part of humanity perish.” Are you familiar with such a verse and, if you can find it, can you explain its meaning? — J.G., Illinois.
A. We could not find a Bible passage that sounds exactly like what you have in mind. In Matt. 24:21-22, Jesus talked about “a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened.” And St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 7:29-31, says when talking about virgins and widows:
“The time is running out. From now on let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.”
Some listeners thought Paul was talking about something imminent, and even stopped working, but that was 2,000 years ago and humanity is still here.
So we don’t know for certain, but perhaps Jesus and Paul were talking about being prepared for the end, whether that of the entire world or that of each one of us individually. The Latin adage says it well: Tempus fugit, memento mori — “Time flies, remember death.”

Q. In the Book of Exodus (34:6-7), it says that the Lord passed by Moses and cried out: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin, yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ wickedness!”
This passage troubles me. Why would God punish children and grandchildren for the sins of their fathers? Didn’t Jesus say before He cured the blind man that his blindness was not the result of his parents’ sins? Can you reconcile this apparent contradiction? — F.A., via e-mail.
A. A priest we know said that “God cannot contradict Himself. Christ is the Eternal Word who speaks personally in the Gospels, but also speaks in the Old Testament as God’s Word. When we encounter a seeming contradiction in Sacred Scripture, we have to go deeper and make distinctions.” He explained the passage in this way:
“God doesn’t hold children accountable for the sins of their parents. Sin is personally willed and chosen, and so we are personally culpable only for what we choose. To think a man is born blind as a directly willed punishment by God for a sin he didn’t commit is nonsensical superstition. And Jesus disabuses the Jews of that notion.
“But God’s words in Exodus are true, too, but how are we to understand them? There is another way in which sin becomes punished generationally (and not how the Critical Race Theory hustlers are trying to claim in our own day). Succeeding generations can be punished for the sins of their fathers in that the temporal consequences of sin remain. For example, a man becomes an apostate and leaves the Church. That has generational consequences — his children and grandchildren are punished for his sins in that they wind up denied the sacraments when they wouldn’t have been if that man had remained faithful.
“Bad examples of addicting behaviors or the trauma of a hostile home life can certainly live on generationally. Common vices can be manifested from father to son, and so we should always be mindful of the lasting consequences of sin. There is no truly private sin; they all affect the whole Body of Christ. We will only be judged on our own choices, not our father’s, but the suffering sin causes for those around us is punishment in its own right.
“The happy side effect of this is that our virtues have consequences, too. The good we choose can do much to make life better for our children, just as our lives are better on account of our parents’ virtues. That’s true of the Church as a whole, too. We are all beneficiaries of an apostolic Faith that has been passed on for dozens of generations; the reward of salvation has come to many.
“So be mindful of the example you set. Be mindful of the good and the bad of what you may have inherited, and always refer back to God’s Word, which is the surest guide we have to rise above sin and attain lasting peace and joy with our just and merciful God.”

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