Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Catholic Q&A: Part 16

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

If a priest doesn't forgive your sins for what ever reason, and a few weeks or months later you go again to a different priest and confess the same sin again and he forgives you.... does the second over rule the first or how does that work?

If you confess your sins with a contrite heart to the priest and he pronounces the words of absolution over you, then you can be sure that your sins have been forgiven.

Why are there so many Mary's in the bible? Was it just coincidence or was God saying something about the name Mary?

There are five women with the name "Mary" in the New Testament:
  1. Mary, Mother of Jesus
  2. Mary Magdalene
  3. Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus
  4. Mary, the mother of James ("the less") and Joseph (not Jesus' father, but another Joseph). This is probably the same person as Mary, the wife of Clopas
  5. Mary, the mother of John Mark of Jerusalem
I'm not sure that we should read too much into this. The name "Mary" is prevalent in the New Testament for the simple reason that it was a very common name in Jesus' day, as it is still today.

What exactly does it mean to fear God?

To "fear God" is to be aware of His great power and majesty, and to respond accordingly. Usually this entails acts of worship and obedience. Fear of the Lord also includes fear of His Judgments, of the wrath that is justly incurred by sin. It is often this type of religious fear that is the first impulse that leads towards loving God above all things and desiring to do His Will alone. "Fear of the Lord" is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are received at baptism.

Why is the Catholic version of the ten commandments different than others?

Around the time of the Protestant Reformation, when so much of Catholic piety was put on trial and abandoned, the Ten Commandments were re-numbered by the Reformers in order to emphasize the Lord's command against graven images, which they saw as an indictment of the Catholic practice of making statues and icons of the saints. So, our first Commandment ("I am the Lord, your God, you shall have no other gods besides me") was broken up into two: "You shall have no other gods" and "you shall not make any graven image."

Of course, in order to maintain 10 commandments instead of 11, two commandments had to be combined somewhere else. So, they took our ninth commandment ("Thou shall not covet your neighbors wife") and tenth commandment ("thou shall not covet your neighbor's goods") and combined them into one commandment against coveting in general.

There are two problems with this new numbering. First of all, the commandment to worship God alone obviously includes a prohibition against making idols. There's really no logical reason to have a special commandment against that. The Reformers did this for polemical reasons that are ultimately false. The use of statues and icons of the saints doesn't go against God's words on graven images for the simple fact that God had in mind idols that people worship. We don't worship the saints, nor do we worship any depictions of them.

Secondly, combining the two commandments on coveting into one implies that the two sins described are the same. But, coveting your neighbor's wife is a very different sin than coveting his goods. Coveting one's wife is lust and adultery. Coveting his goods is envy and greed. Thus, it makes perfect sense that God's command against coveting your neighbor's wife would be treated separately from His command against coveting your neighbor's goods.

Pax Christi,

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