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July 1, 2022 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Is it true that Christ was crucified naked? I have heard that His Mother gave Him a piece of cloth to cover Himself. Is this true? — R.M., via e-mail.
A. We don’t know for certain whether Jesus was naked on the cross. It was customary for the executioners to strip the alleged criminal naked, thus adding the ultimate humiliation to the person. The Gospels all say that the soldiers divided Jesus’ garments into four piles, a share for each soldier, but they cast lots for a fifth garment, the Lord’s seamless tunic.
In his Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen says that “being stripped of his garments meant that He was no longer localized by dress. In His nakedness He became the Universal Man. Exiled outside the city, He now gave up country as well as life. The Sacred Heart was confined by no frontiers” (p. 337).
In his Life of Christ, Giuseppe Ricciotti says that Jesus and the two thieves “were stripped of their garments, though it is possible they were conceded some kind of loincloth. The garments of the crucified fell to the soldiers, who divided them into equal shares. This they did with Jesus’ garments too, and the Evangelist who watched them tells us exactly what happened. A Jew usually wore an outer garment or cloak and beneath it a tunic. The cloak was made of two pieces of cloth sewed together, but the tunic might be without seam, woven in one piece from the top” (p. 370).
Ricciotti says that “the cloak could be divided along the seams with no great loss; but since the tunic was in one piece it would have lost most of its value if it has been cut into four parts. So the soldiers agreed to give it to the one favored by the dice. But in their action, the Evangelist sees the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:19, which says, ‘They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots’” [John 19:24].
Given the brutal nature of the Roman executioners, we doubt if they would have heeded a request by the Blessed Mother, if she made such a request, to give her Son modest cover.

Q. It’s obvious that St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother were not Sadducees, but is there any record of them being Pharisees or Essenes, Herodians or even Zealots? Did they teach Jesus or was He taught by rabbis? Since Jesus is one with God, was He born with all knowledge and listened only to God the Father? — D.H., Iowa.
A. Joseph and Mary were humble Jewish believers in the backwater town of Nazareth and were not involved with any of the groups you mentioned. They undoubtedly conveyed their beliefs to Jesus as He was growing up, and He probably spent time in the presence of a rabbi at the local Jewish synagogue.
As for His knowledge, Jesus, as a divine Person with both a human nature and a divine nature, knew of His divinity and His mission from the beginning. He had two kinds of knowledge: human and divine, and three kinds of human knowledge. First, He had the Beatific Vision, which is an immediate face-to-face knowledge of God (He knew that He and the Father were one). Second, He had infused supernatural knowledge, which was knowledge conferred on Him by God without previous human experience or reflection on His part (He was able to read the hidden thoughts of His listeners and could predict future events). Third, He had acquired knowledge (He learned how to read and write and to become a carpenter).
In his Question and Answer Catholic Catechism, Fr. John Hardon, SJ, offered this summary of Christ’s knowledge:
“Christ, as God, knew all things, past, present, and future. And even as man, because His humanity was united to the Word of God, He had access to all knowledge; but since the nature He assumed was finite, His human knowledge was not infinite. Therefore, He could develop as man through the kind of experience He had as He grew from infancy, through childhood, and into adult age. But never was Christ ignorant of anything He could have known, as though He were not God-made-man from the first moment of the Incarnation; or ignorant of anything He should have known, as though His human nature was blinded, like ours, by original or personal sin” (pp. 64-65).
For more information about Christ’s knowledge, see nn. 472-474 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Fr. William G. Most’s book The Consciousness of Christ.

Q. How do we reconcile the promise of Jesus to the Good Thief on the cross, that “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), with Jesus’ descent to the dead and Resurrection on the third day? — K.B., Pennsylvania.
A. Jesus’ words imply that the Good Thief will join Him in Paradise that very day, and yet we believe that Jesus descended into Hell to release what St. Peter called the “spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19), that is, those holy persons who were waiting for Jesus’ atoning death. And in His appearance to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, He told her when she tried to hug Him, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). So, if He had not yet ascended to the Father by Sunday morning, how could He have accompanied the Good Thief into Paradise on Friday night?
Paradise is a synonym for Heaven, but Pope St. Gregory the Great thought that it was a hidden earthly place where one would wait for Jesus’ arrival in Heaven. We don’t know how to reconcile these two statements, but perhaps one of our readers does.

Q. At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin told the three children that many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray for them. Considering what Jesus suffered for us, what desire He has to save us, can we say that all His agony proves useless because some sinner like me failed to pray for another sinner? This cannot be right. — C.E., California.
A. First of all, this is not exactly what the Virgin Mary said. After showing the children a frightening vision of Hell, which Lucia described as “demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration,” Mary said:
“You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”
Certainly, the death of Jesus on the cross is sufficient to save all sinners from Hell, if they choose to listen to Him and to repent of their sins. But Jesus wants us to share in His salvific actions by joining our prayers and sacrifices to His. Remember that St. Paul said in Col. 1:24 that “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church.”
Paul was not saying that Christ’s sufferings were not infinitely valuable and sufficient for our redemption, because they were. What the Apostle meant was that we can add our sufferings to those of Christ so that the fruits of His redemption can be applied to people everywhere.
So, too, our prayers through the Immaculate Heart of Mary can affect the salvation of sinners.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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