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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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4,031 Responses

  1. Hi Father,

    My dad is 90, He has Parkinson & dementia, is in failing health, and doesn’t have long to live. It is rare when I can get the whole family together (kids, grandkids, great grandkids, brothers, and sister) together at my house to see him. Sunday is the day we are able to do that. My dad relishes the times he is able to see everyone. He is a devout Catholic, and still goes to Mass during the week when he is feeling well enough. My step mom takes care of him, and it requires her help for him to go anywhere, and do just about anything. When there is a Sunday visit planned, he goes to Mass on Saturday.

    On one such planned Sunday visit, my dad was unable to go to Mass on Saturday, so I could pick him up at 11 on Sunday. Instead of picking him up, my step mom called, and said she couldn’t get him to Saturday Mass, and was unable to get him to 8am or 10am Mass on Sunday, and that he would have to go to 12pm Mass. The end result was he never made it to my house, and my whole family came over to see him. My dad was heart broken that he missed seeing everyone. My step mom doesn’t want more than one person at her house to visit my dad at any given time, so going there wasn’t an option, and we wouldn’t anyway.

    After that happened, I told my step mom these are very special family occasions, that my dad would soon be gone, and if it meant missing one Sunday Mass occasionally, to see his family, then that is how it had to be. She then asked me if I wanted my dad t go to Hell, and that him not missing one Sunday Mass was more important than seeing his family on these special occasions that aren’t easy to arrange, with everyone’s schedules. I have tried to do Saturdays, but it’s even more difficult to arrange.

    My question is this; Will God look unfavorably upon my dad for missing a Sunday, once in a blue moon, to be with his entire family on these special occasions? He can barely manage himself at Mass at this point, but still makes every effort to go. He was going to ask the Priest about it, but hasn’t after we talked about it a couple of months ago, because he can’t remember long enough to ask the Priest when he sees him. He was very sad when he missed the family gathering that day, and I really think God would bless the Sunday gathering, not look negatively upon my dad missing Mass that day.

    FATHER JOE: It is wonderful that your father gets great consolation in attending Mass. However, given his health, the obligation under the precepts of the Church is mitigated— not absolutely binding. He commits no sin if getting to Mass is too arduous a task. He can say his prayers and, if possible, watch the Mass for Shut-ins on television. The long-and-short-of-it, given the facts you share is that he commits no sin if he should miss Mass given his many health concerns. He should not be afraid of going to hell over it. God understands. I would agree with you that time shared with family is also a precious gift that should not be short-changed.

  2. Hello! I have a friend who wears leggings as pants sometimes (which I don’t like to wear myself as I think there are more modest forms of fashion), with a longer shirt covering her backside and she sometimes asks me if her shirt is covering her backside. It usually, is but I feel like you just shouldn’t wear leggings, and she could look more modest. I kind of hesitate and say “I guess” the last time she asked. I wish I could instead say “no, I don’t think you should wear leggings at all”, but I don’t want to be rude and make her uncomfortable. But I feel like my hesitation at answering her kind of shows her that I disapprove anyway, which is what I was going for. She doesn’t look blatantly immodest at all, especially compared to others. I just have a really high standard for modesty. Am I committing a mortal sin of not fraternally correcting her when she asks for my opinion? I just think she asks just because, and not because she actually wants me to give her what I think. To be honest, if I were to ask someone else if she looked immodest, they would probably say no, but still I just don’t think you should wear leggings as pants. I’m worried if I bring it up to her she will be mad because our friendship is already kind of rocky. I’m sorry I sound a mess, but I’m just worried I am in mortal sin. Also, recently I have noticed that she hasn’t been wearing leggings as much and I’m wondering if that’s because of me. Nevertheless, should I say something to her or no? And if so, should I do it out of the blue or if she asks me my opinion again?

    FATHER JOE: You are free to share or not to share your opinion about such matters. I have noticed recent chatter on the Catholic internet about leggings but it is not a subject that I have ever pondered. While I certainly feel that modesty should be prized, my concern has always been that certain body parts should be covered— not how tight or loose the clothes might be. Given the changing nature of fashions, I would generally leave the matter of feminine styled clothing to good Christian women.

  3. FATHER JOE: We should keep our promises with God. The most important of these are our baptismal and sacramental promises. What you describe is something else… bargaining with God. God does not work that way. God cannot be bribed or intimidated. You have nothing with which you can bargain with God. It is representative of a juvenile faith. I am reminded of the little boy who wanted a bike. He even prayed for a bike but nothing happened. Then one day the statue of Mary in his room disappeared (he hid her in his sock drawer). The little boy prayed, “Okay Jesus, if you want to see your mother again, give me a bike!”

    Fr Joe, you are dead on: It was juvenile and stupid, not my best day. I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself. I appreciate you not pulling punches. Can you clarify for me 1: am I then not bound by this promise, since it was an attempt to bargain with my creator, and an extremely ill considered, juvenile, and ridiculous one at that?
    2: When I go to confession, in order to confess properly, what am I confessing? Breaking a promise? Bargaining with God? Or both?

    Thank you for your help.

    FATHER JOE:

    The word juvenile may be too harsh as I simply mean “under developed.” Ministers can also suffer from this malady. There is a popular Pentecostal minister who regularly writes in his books about making bargains with God so as to discern the divine will. I think it is a serious misstep. There is no need to feel ashamed. The most famous instance of bargaining (albeit with a saint) was in the life of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. He was traveling and got caught in a terrible thunderstorm. Thrown to the ground by a lightning bolt, he fearfully cried out, “St. Ann, help me! I will become a monk!” Luther kept his solemn promise but it could be argued if it were for the best or not. We can ask God for help but divine intervention is always representative of the divine mercy and is a gift. God cannot be bribed or intimidated. Everything we have and any good we do already belongs wholly to him.

    We should keep our promises before God. However, as you have not disclosed what you promised, I really can say nothing more about it. Promises to God should not be flippant or capricious.

  4. Fr Joe,
    Could you explain the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition? Why would someone confess something ‘imperfectly”? Does God forgive both perfect and imperfect? If your contrition is imperfect, and then it becomes “perfect”, would you need to re-confess it? This came up in a Lent program I went to, and hearing these concepts for the 1st time, I wasn’t fully sure what they were talking about.
    Thank you!!

    FATHER JOE: Imperfect contrition is sufficient for absolution. As to the difference, perfect contrition means that we are sorry for our sins because “most of all they offend God who is all good and deserving of all our love.” Imperfect contrition is the fear of punishment… “the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.”

  5. Fr Joe, In a moment of panic about a year ago, I made a promise to God that if he helped me out, I would never do this one thing again. I felt so dang stupid, and regretted making the promise, but fully intended on living up to it, and have.

    Today, I put myself in a situation that I could have been forced to break that promise. I knew I might have been but did not take steps to correct it beforehand. Even though it didn’t turn out that I had to break it, I guess it counts as breaking it in my heart.

    Is this the same as breaking a vow? Is it a mortal sin? Or is making a panicky promise to God the mortal sin?

    FATHER JOE: We should keep our promises with God. The most important of these are our baptismal and sacramental promises. What you describe is something else… bargaining with God. God does not work that way. God cannot be bribed or intimidated. You have nothing with which you can bargain with God. It is representative of a juvenile faith. I am reminded of the little boy who wanted a bike. He even prayed for a bike but nothing happened. Then one day the statue of Mary in his room disappeared (he hid her in his sock drawer). The little boy prayed, “Okay Jesus, if you want to see your mother again, give me a bike!”

  6. Dear Father,
    I was asked by an adult why one of our players wasn’t playing for the first couple games of the year (he’s suspended for getting in trouble) and I really didnt wanna tell him but I just told him he got in trouble and I specifically didn’t get into detail. Is this detraction??

    FATHER JOE: Few details… probably not.

  7. Hi Father,
    A few things here.. I am currently trying to figure out which church is the true church that Jesus established. I am certain it is the orthodox or the Catholic Church and am earnestly seeking. The videos I have attached below are a few very disturbing things that have happened and are happening in the Catholic Church and i can’t help but feel th Holy Spirit pulling me closer to the Orthodox Church and further from the Catholic Church. Please tell me why these things are being permitted within the Church. I am so troubled and deeply concerned.

    I understand you are busy and may not be able to watch the videos but they are all pretty short. As a summary, the first is a video of a catholic priest celebrating a wedding with secular music playing, singing, dancing, clapping, etc…. these things shouldn’t be happening within the Church walls.
    The second video is of men acrobats taking off their shirts and going through an acrobatic show for the pope..??? Need I say more??
    The third video is of a mass showcasing clowns?? This is an abomination! Jesus would flip tables if He saw this!!
    The fourth video is of the Eucharist being brought to the altar by a drone while the audience (congregation) claps as if that is actually acceptable.

    I’m just SO confused. How could the Holy Spirit be allowing this in His Church?!? It does not seem like this is the church that belongs to Jesus Christ. Meanwhile the Orthodox Church has their own political issues(they’re not perfect either) but their way of worship has not “changed with the times”. It has been the same—just as Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. Please help me to understand. Thank you Father!

    FATHER JOE:

    The acrobats in the video above were not performing in a liturgy. It was a special circus show. The pastor at the church that used a drone was apparently censured for violation of rules about liturgical decorum and honoring the Eucharist. Catholicism is much larger than Orthodoxy and so you will find many examples of dissent and liturgical impropriety around the world.

    The Orthodox churches tend to be national churches. It is only Catholicism that truly expresses in her structure a universal nature. Further, the special vocation given Peter as ROCK is only really perpetuated in the successors of Peter, the men who have served as popes. While the Orthodox churches are true churches with the seven sacraments; they have adopted some of the views of Protestantism about faith and the Bible in the West, compromised the teaching of Christ against divorce by allowing penitential marriages and lack juridical union with the Petrine see. All churches face scandal. Indeed, Jesus had to deal with the first corrupt priest-bishop in Judas. The Catholic Church is the house that Jesus built. While the Orthodox churches permit married priests, there is evidence that perfect continence was the general rule in the early Church, even for married clergy. Orthodox bishops must be celibate. The Catholic Church maintains the ancient discipline and wants both her bishops and priests to abide by the discipline of celibate love. This raises the bar for ministerial service. We seek to imitate Jesus and St. Paul in sharing a single-hearted love. It is unfortunate that some men have broken their promises. But most have remained faithful.

    The Church should also not be judged by liturgical abuses but by the proper ordo of her rituals and sacraments. There is a richness to Catholic doctrine and spirituality that is unmatched by other churches. Look to the best, not the worse. We should also avoid prejudice in regard to the diversity we find in Catholicism. Her liturgies express this richness: traditional Masses and Latin, contemporary music and the vernacular, Eastern rites with liturgies the same as the Orthodox, as well as many variations in style as in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    I should also add that while Orthodoxy has tended to keep its religion between the walls of its churches; Catholicism has always viewed herself as a Church on mission. We see much of this in history with Orthodoxy keeping a low profile in Islamic countries and under the yoke of Soviet communism. It was the Catholic Church that was the thorn-in-the-side to Marxism and the wall against Muslim expansion. While the KGB infiltrated the leadership of the Orthodox churches, the Catholic churches were heavily persecuted and closed (as in Romania). The social gospel is a constitutive element of the Good News of Christ and the Catholic Church. It is what makes the Church a sign of contradiction in modern society— especially about the dignity of persons and the sanctity of life.

  8. Fr. Joe,
    We are to defend our Faith, correct?
    Here is a situation. My father-in-law who is Catholic but has been away from the Church and then back for the past 25 years is now do e with her again. He is i to rwincarnation and new age beliefs. For some background his wife has been in nursig home for 6 yrs with Alzheimers. He is angry with God for sure.
    He stood in our home, bashing God the Father, telling us Jesus just keeps coming back over and over again as a diffent person and saying terrible things about devotion to Our Lady.
    My wife and I know he is a mess right now and just let him vent and ramble. This is the first time to hear this for me, the 4th for my wife. How much do you tolerate for the sake of charity and ministering to hi. Before you put your foot down? We pray for him every day.

    FATHER JOE: New Age beliefs tend to borrow heavily from many sources, particularly from Eastern religions and the occult. Often it is associated with primitive superstitions and magic. It is not a rational religion and thus debate rarely produces much positive fruit. If he wants to believe that roaches are reincarnated relatives, then that is his problem. Jesus is who Jesus is— the divine incarnate Son of God who died and rose from the dead, never to die again. Mary is given to us from the Cross— the Mother of the Redeemer becomes the Mother of all the redeemed. He can believe in whatever nonsense he wants; however, you are within your rights to insist that it not be shared in your home. Tell him that he is welcome but that he must respect that it is a Christian home. It is your home and your rules, even when it comes to the grace before meals.

  9. Fr Joe,
    My son isn’t speaking to me right now. He recently took a second job at an adult store, and I voiced my objection. He then shut down. He feels that since he needed money he should be free to do whatever he needs to do without input from me. I haven’t been dogging him about it, but he now calls his father to talk, and I am in the cold.

    He is an actor. He graduated from college with a degree in drama studies with a business minor and still does plays at the community theater. He just got a part in a play about Jesus as a zombie killer. I don’t know anything for sure about this play, but it doesn’t give me warm fuzzies about whether it is respectful of our Lord. I googled Jesus zombie killer and there is a play written by a pair of agnostics that paints Jesus as “selfish” (their words), but I don’t know if this is the play he is doing.

    We have always driven the 4 hours upstate to see him in his plays. I enjoy going, and I enjoy seeing my son and spending time with him. However, I have misgivings about lending my monetary and moral support to a play of this nature. But….if I decline to attend, it may further the current rift. I am not sure what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

    I should say that my southern baptist husband doesn’t have any real problems with his job except for the fact that they sell pornography, and probably doesn’t mind the content of the play, as he does have an irreverent sense of humor (although is not in any way blasphemous in his daily life).

    FATHER JOE: I would suggest letting your son know that while you love him, a play that transforms Jesus into a zombie killer would be extremely difficult for you to watch. If he can ignore your concern about working in an establishment that caters to pornography; then I think he should at least respect your sensibilities in saying no to the play. You have an obligation to safeguard your own soul.

  10. Dear Fr.

    Hi, I have a question about a few sins I saw on the CCC. If you could answer them that would be great.

    What is:

    indifference?

    ingratitude?

    lukewarmness?

    and acedia?

    Could you please explain these to me?

    I know I seem like I have lots of questions and I’m sorry if Im annoying but here’s my last question:

    Let’s say you go to confession, you confess your sins, you don’t lie and it’s vaild. Now is it possible to be unforgiven?

    Thank you so much

    God bless ❤️

    FATHER JOE:

    I would start this discussion with the twofold commandment of Christ to love God and neighbor. The sins you cite are a rejection of the law of love. All of them are similar and the definitions overlap.

    While often overlooked, indifference is a most poisonous type of sin. It signifies a level of self-absorption or indulgence that numbs the soul to caring about others and our relationship with God. It is a form of insensitivity that best describes the hardened heart— a habitual negligence.

    Given a sensitivity overload, there is so much violence, hatred and selfishness in the world that we become unfazed by it all. Children are aborted. Large populations starve to death. Millions face oppression. And we couldn’t care less. “Pass the plate.” “Give me the salt.” We eat our suppers while the television news paints a dark picture of pain around the globe and at home. The news from the other side of the planet only involves strangers. As long as the locks work, let the thugs kill each other on the streets.

    This sin is not far from despair. Live or die, it does not matter. It is not my business. Beyond greed, it was a portion of the major sin that inflicted Scrooge in THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Indifference signifies the death of passion or zeal, especial for spiritual things and for justice. Indifference is also expressive of a lie— that it makes no difference as to what you do or how you live. It wrongly equates hell as balanced with heaven— denying the transformative power of God’s love. We are called to acknowledge and to respond to divine love. The failure to do so is a grievous sin.

    Ingratitude shares a certain proximity to indifference. Both are violations of charity. While indifference ignores or resists any reflection upon divine love; ingratitude adamantly refuses to acknowledge and to return divine love. The posture of the creature to the Creator is to render praise and thanksgiving. We acknowledge our dependence and that everything is a gift. The whole response of the believer should be that of lifelong gratitude.

    Another sin against charity is lukewarmness. No response is made to God’s love because of a slothful soul. It is viewed as just too much work. Of course, there is a deception here. In truth there is a resistance to the movement or indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God moves souls to repentance and conversion. The Spirit makes possible true faith. The Holy Spirit even prays in believers. The sin of lukewarmness literally leaves the person ill-disposed or closed to the Spirit and grace. We neither care nor feel we have the energy to respond to divine love. Again, there is a deceit. The energy is there. We really do not want to access it.

    I have often witnessed lukewarmness when people say they are too busy to pray or to pick up the Scriptures. They have time for everything else— but not for God. This actually leads to the final sin you mention, acedia. Such a person not only fails to pray or to perform other spiritual operations; but, really stops caring about his standing before God and the condition of the world.

    Your final question about confession is a tad unclear. A good confession requires genuine contrition and sorrow. The Church speaks about perfect contrition (having dishonored God) and imperfect contrition (fearful of punishment and the loss of heaven).

  11. Dear Father Joe,

    Thank you for your time and patience in answering our questions.

    My question concerns board games. My friends and I enjoy playing on occasion. They have a slew of games – some crime, mystery, guessing, logic, trivia, horror, etc… It’s somewhat of a new interest for me as I only recently started to enjoy game nights. Anyway, in doing so I thought about purchasing some of the games we play to have them available at home – particularly two games – Dixit (trick opponents / guessing game) and Mysterium (murder mystery involving a ghost). I noticed the name of the board game company is asmodee… That rung/struck a bell with me as I remember a friend mentioning either asmodee or asmodeus as the name of a demon an exorcist had cited (Tobit 3:8).

    Do you suspect a word coincidence, or something more intentional? Should I steer clear of purchasing and even playing games from a company with this name or would that be overly scrupulous?

    Thank you Father Joe.

    FATHER JOE: I really know nothing about it. It may just be a peculiar name of a game-board company.

  12. Re: Cardinal Donald Wurel, he DID NOT resign because of age, but rather in the wake of scandals about his mishandling of sexual abuse in his diocese.

    https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/wuerl-resigns-ending-influential-tenure-wake-abuse-report

    And why wouldn’t Pope Francis accept the resignation of another Cardinal clearly convicted by a French court of covering up sexual abuse (Cardinal Philippe Barbarin)?

    FATHER JOE: No, your chronology is wrong. Be wary of media reports, they often do not understand how things work in the Church. The Archbishop told us when he submitted his resignation and it was prior to the report and list of names in Pennsylvania. However, while submitted when a bishop reaches retirement age, it is up to the Pope to accept it or to extend a bishop’s time. Cardinal Wuerl later pleaded with the Pope to accept the resignation that was already submitted when he reached retirement age (for the good of the Church). The Holy Father assented but left him as the administrator of the Archdiocese. The issue with the other Cardinal is that he is below retirement age and evidently the Holy Father feels that even though the response to allegations is now judged as inadequate, his actions do not warrant removal.

  13. Hi Father. At Mass, I saw a girl eating chocolate wafers then during Communion, she went in line. I do not know her and she was with her parents. Did I have a moral obligation to advise the girl to refrain from receiving the Eucharist? For all I know she ate the chocolate wafer for health reasons. Maybe she was poorly catechized. Likewise I was scared of the bad reaction from the girl and her parents if I did inform the girl that she can’t receive due to the 1 hour fast required.

    By me bypassing the situation, is it also excommunicable? Any suggestions as well if I encounter similar situations in the future? Thanks!

    FATHER JOE: There is no immediate requirement for you to make the correction. The pastor is really the one to make comment and he can ask ushers to remind people. The fast is currently one hour prior to the reception of Holy Communion.

  14. My mom said something tonight that I hadn’t thought of before. She said she’s lost her devotion to Mary. She said it happened when she was appearing in different places, I can’t remember where, but one place was in Georgia, back in the 80s or 90s and she said people were just going crazy over it. She said it was as if they were worshiping her and putting Jesus to the side. My question is, why is it that Mary appears to people, but we’re not expected to sort of “worship” that, if you were to witness such a thing?

    FATHER JOE: Devotion to Mary should be based upon the genuine revelations given to the Church, especially from Scripture and our living Tradition. The Catholic Church never sanctioned the peculiar events in Conyers, Georgia. Be careful of private revelations and apparitions, unless they are approved by the Church. I often cite Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe as among the most important. Following something that is questionable or false can damage one’s faith.

  15. I was wondering if it is appropriate to invite a same sex couple to my daughters baptism? My wife seems okay with it but I have major reservations.

    FATHER JOE: There should not be a problem as long as they know that the day is about the child and not about them. The key word is discrete. The last thing you want is an argument between them and the priest or deacon performing the baptism. Not regarded as in good standing, they should not be asked to serve as godparents. The Church does not recognize same-sex bonds, however, this does not eliminate respect for persons and friendship.

  16. Father Joe, I am reading the fifteen promises of Mary to Christians who recite the Rosary and there is a reference to “signal graces”. This seems rather self-explanatory, but I wonder if you could expound on signal graces. Is it just an outward sign that is visible and recognized by the Faithful or could it be something happening for which one is not aware?

    Thanks,

    Dana

    FATHER JOE: We generally speak of two types of graces: sanctifying (saving) grace and actual (helping) grace. While there is some argument about certain graces as created or uncreated, I usually speak about grace as the indwelling of the divine presence. Particularly given Mary’s maternal cooperation with her Son and her intercession, some may receive what is called signal graces. The soul has two properties called intellect and will. Signal graces move them in such an extraordinary manner or degree that others and maybe the person himself detect the change or presence. Such graces help to keep the person on track, in other words, to make the right decisions in life.

  17. Hello Fr. Joe. After working 24 years in community mental health and addictions I have joined a religious community at the age of 54. At times I struggle living in community, the politics, gossip and brothers being unkind to one another. I am from the US and my novitiate is in the Philippines, so it’s a bit of a culture shock. It’s tough, but I am in it for the long run. I feel that this is my vocation and I put all my trust in God. My question to you, could you recommend any good books that might help me spiritually grow within community or any suggestions you might have to help me grow closer to God and in community in my novitiate. Thanks for your time and keep me in your prayers. Peace

    Bro. Joe

    FATHER JOE: Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux.

  18. https://www.yahoo.com/news/pope-rejects-resignation-french-cardinal-sex-abuse-cover-141558811.html

    How come Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Donald Wherl’s resignation over accusation of covering up abuse and not this Cardinal?

    FATHER JOE: Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation had been offered quite some time earlier as he had reached retirement age. Nevertheless, he remains as the administrator for the Archdiocese of Washington. This other cardinal is only 68 years old (well below the 75 stipulated for retirement).

  19. I had the following editorial letter published in the Laconia Daily Sun newspaper,and I was wondering is there anything wrong with it?

    FATHER JOE: There is no letter attached.

  20. Hi Fr Joe
    when ever i am upset or going through tough time in my life i dream of taking communion..it happened back n October last year and few days back again.. i was too upset and going through very stressful time I pray a lot and ask GOD to help me in this time and i had dream of taking communion in Church the lady who gave communion came to me and gave communion to me..but last night i dreamed of Pope coming to my home and talking like a family member… help me to understand these signs.
    regards

    FATHER JOE: I do not have the gift of deciphering dreams.

  21. Hello Fr.Joe.
    I have been challenged to comment on the statements below attributed to our early church fathers concerning our Jewish brothers. What is a proper response?

    From John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, we get this: Jews are the most worthless of men — they are lecherous, greedy, rapacious — they are perfidious murderers of Christians, they worship the devil, their religion is a sickness…. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation, no indulgence, no pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance. The Jews must live in servitude forever. It is incumbent on all Christians to hate the Jews.

    From Gregory of Nyssa, we get more of the same: Slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, adversaries of god, haters of god, men who show contempt for the law, foes of grace, enemies of the father’s faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men whose minds are in darkness, leaven of the Pharisees, assembly of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners and haters of righteousness.

    Spiro, Ken. Crash Course in Jewish History: The Miracle and Meaning of Jewish History, from Abraham to Modern Israel . Targum Press Inc..

    FATHER JOE:

    The most serious problem with Christianity is with Christians, themselves. We are all too easily converted by the values and ways of thinking that emerge from our fallen nature and the world around us. How did the tension between Jews and Christians start? The Jews, like Christians, also had moments within their history where prejudice, hatred and violence were enacted against their neighbors. Indeed, the long memory of the Church seems reluctant to let go of the fact that early Christians were stoned and expelled from the synagogues. This would feed a resentment that is even highlighted in the New Testament Scriptures where the false conviction by the high priest Caiaphas and the shouts for crucifixion from the crowd are given a universal meaning— that the Jews renounced and handed over their own Messiah for torture and murder. Many Christian leaders would fan the flames of resentment even as they questioned why the Jewish nation, albeit without borders, refused to disappear. It is within this context that the legend of the wandering Jew emerges. The story goes that he cursed Christ on the Cross; as punishment he is cursed in return by God and must wander the earth until the second coming and judgment day. He becomes a symbol of a chastised people— exiled and in bondage.

    When the pagan world was converted by Christianity, although it is sometimes argued that what happened was other way around, the presence of the diaspora Jews became both a political concern and a fortuitous happening. The latter is because the Church struggled over the issue of simony and the lending of money. Until this teaching was modified, banking was often relegated to Jews who had no reservations about money transactions incurring interest. Unfortunately, this would also feed bigotry where Jews were portrayed as greedy and miserly. When The Church fought against the errors of Protestantism and the incursion of Islam, the Jews also found themselves targeted.

    What do I have to say? Pope John Paul II made an apology to the Jewish people for all the mistreatment they had received from Christians during the last 2,000 years. There is no defending some of the past statements from saints or even popes. We cannot and should not scapegoat an entire people as singly culpable for the death of Christ and the tragedies that the world faces. We make no apology about our doctrine of salvation— that Christ is the Mediator and Savior and that there is no way to the Father except through him. We believe that any who would find themselves in heaven will have to thank the Lord for his sacrifice and mercy. Our Lord’s statement from the Cross was not limited to a handful of disciples or even to the Jews, but to all the people of the world who betrayed and killed Christ by their sins— past, present and future. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What comes from the Cross is not a curse, but blessing.

    The saints, like all of us today, often buy into the prejudices of our times. They are canonized, not because all their personal opinions and theology was correct, but because they earnestly struggled to be holy. Where do we stand today? God has made one covenant with his people. There are not two covenants, one for the Jews and the other for Christians. The one covenant is consummated or fulfilled in Christ Jesus— not repealed. Jesus made promises to us just as God made promises to Abraham and the first people of faith. God promised that if they would obey him, he would be their God and they would be his people. The Jews are still a chosen people. The salvation that we treasure as Christians comes from the Jews. That makes us all spiritual Semites. The Jews are our elder brothers and sisters in the Lord. While there is much that divides us, particularly the Trinity and the redemptive role of Christ, they were also called by God. Theirs (like our own) is a true religion. Instead of mistrust and bigotry, Jews and Christians should live in peace as brothers and sisters. The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures belong to us both. The commandments given to them are also given to us as illumined by the gift of love. Any attack upon the Jewish people is an assault against Christ, himself.

    I began this response by saying the problem with the faith is with us. We have sometimes forgotten that we follow the Jew named Jesus and that all the original apostles were Jewish. Jesus told us to love those who are sometimes hard to love. He commanded us to forgive all wrongs. He urged us to give to those who would take from us. The Gospel mandate is not one of hatred or fear but rather of love:

    “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:16-21).

  22. Hello Father,
    First off thank you for your time in reading my question. And I hope you’ve had a blessed Sunday! So my question to you is that if I use the Lords name in Vain in my head, is it still considered a mortal sin ? I’ll be more specific of course. Recently I had gone to my car and opened the door and looked at the mess on my car and thought “Gosh darn it” only that wasn’t the phrase I used…if you catch my drift…but the words never came out of my mouth! Is it still a mortal sin ? I feel terrible regardless…Thank you for your time, and I pacently await your answer !

    FATHER JOE: There are many things that pass through our heads that we are right not to share. This is much harder to control than what we actually say. While our heads should not be full of vulgarities, you sought to avoid blasphemy. My opinion is that there is no sin in these cases.

  23. Yes God loves you the way you are. Any one else in your life should too otherwise they don’t know your true worth as an adopted son of God. Focus on your strengths and don’t let others bully you into changing who you are which I imagine is an amazing person with a great heart. You are more than your dance moves and hair cut.

  24. Good morning. My question is about adultery I. The eyes of the Church in regards to dating a man who has a civil divorce and has started the annulment process. We have been dating for nearly nine months. My question is: Is non passionate kissing considered a mortal sin? I hope to hear from you and may God bless you.

    FATHER JOE: Restating the scenario you give, “Can a single woman date a divorced man who has not yet completed the annulment process?” It is probably no surprise to you that most who ask this question have already started dating. There is no immorality in spending time with someone or even in the rendering of a non-passionate kiss. I would even hesitate to call this dating, given modern excesses. But we should not fool ourselves either. When couples grow in love there is also an excitement of the passions and a longing for intimacy. Many take dating too far and offer what belongs strictly to marriage. Others must be ever on guard so as not to cross the moral boundaries in moments of weakness. Even a brief kiss and the slightest of touches can betray a great fire beneath the surface. I have long had an issue with ministries to Divorced Catholics as so many put men and women together who are not free for anything more than platonic friendships. However, put people together who are already wounded and lonely and the result is often cohabitation or second marriages outside the Church. The difficulty with annulments is while they are likely given these days; they are not certain and are sometimes refused. If someone is genuinely married before God and the Church, that bond cannot be severed by anything other than death. If someone is dating and sharing sexual intimacy with a person while married to another then such does indeed constitute adultery. Of course, any sexual congress outside of marriage is the matter of mortal sin. Less discussed is that couples sometimes tempt adultery by sharing the small acts of affection that properly belong to spouses and should not be redirected to another. Spouses are obliged to support each other and to share a common life. This is an ingredient that makes divorce a sin, at least for the offending party that walks away.

  25. Hi Fr.

    So every year, towards Easter, our Office Social Club would organise a prayer breakfast… And it’s usually the Pentecostals who would lead the prayer breakfast.. Last week a friend of mine suggested that we the Catholics at the office should lead the prayer breakfast this year…. We can approach our Archbishop with our request to have a Mass at the office. I didn’t disagree but I started thinking of the last time we had Mass in the office, I remember seeing non-Catholics go up for Communion… Do you think it’s a bad idea to have a Mass at the office?

    FATHER JOE:

    If the effort is deliberately open to everyone then I would suggest an interfaith prayer service without Holy Communion. There are important considerations. Some denominations will not pray with others, particularly Catholics. Further, there are ways or manners of praying that some find alternately as conducive to their beliefs and spirituality or as foreign and offensive. What is the religious breakdown of your office social club? Are there any non-Christians? I am not espousing relativism as I firmly believe that Catholicism signifies the truth. My response here is merely about common respect and efforts toward inclusion. You could have a Mass. But non-Catholics would have to be told that they could not take Holy Communion. They might be asked to pray for spiritual communion and the ultimate unity of Christians. However, as I said, given the context you are probably asking for trouble. Further, Marian prayer as with the rosary would also make with conflict— even though it is increasingly offered in Ecumenical settings as with evangelical Lutherans. Most of the mysteries of faith are Scriptural and have tremendous meditative weight.

    Did the Pentecostals actually offer what would be a routine service or was the prayer effort more extemporaneous? Certain Pentecostals are quite delightful, and even teach baptism in the name of the Trinity. While there is no need to speak in tongues, Catholics are also by definition a charismatic or Spirit-filled people. Others only baptize in Christ’s name and their faith would not be regarded by mainline traditions as a genuine Christianity.

    What should you do? I would probably opt for a liturgy of the Word. The outline would be similar to the first half of the Sunday Mass: beginning with the sign of the cross, a penitential rite, opening prayer, an Old Testament reading, a responsorial psalm, a reading from a New Testament epistle (or Acts or Revelation) and a Gospel reading. If a priest or deacon is available then he can preach upon the Scriptures. If none is available, then a brief round-table might be permitted where those attending can share their thoughts about any of the readings. Next, prayers of petition can be offered and all can pray for the needs brought forward. The service can conclude with the Lord’s Prayer and a closing oration. Hymns might also be added. If everyone attending believes in Jesus and the Bible, this would be a welcoming way to pray with them.

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