Q: Malachi 1:1-3 says: "An oracle. The
word of the LORD to Israel through
Malachi. 'I have loved you,' says the LORD;
but you say, 'How have you loved us?'
'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' says the
LORD: 'yet I loved Jacob, but hated Esau; I
made his mountains a waste, his heritage
a desert for jackals.'" Romans 9:13 quotes
part of this passage, "As it is written: 'I
loved Jacob but hated Esau.'"
Is it true that God hated Esau?
A: No, God did not hate Esau, but
God did prefer Jacob (later
known as Israel) over Esau. The Hebrew
word used in these passages is translated
as hate in The New American Bible,
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
and The New Jerusalem Bible. If God
prefers one person over another, biblical
writers may say that God loves the
one and hates the other, although God
cannot hate any person.
According to The NRSV Concordance
Unabridged, the word hate occurs 83
times in the Old Testament and 17
times in the New Testament, not counting
hated, hates and similar words. In
the Old Testament, 78 of those usages
apply hate in the context of one person
to God, an individual, a group of people
or some type of sin. Only five times
do we read that God hates in the sense
The New Testament's first usage of
hate is a challenge to the idea that one
person is allowed to hate another. In
Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says: "You have
heard that it was said, 'You shall love
your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly
Father, for he makes his sun rise on
the bad and the good, and causes rain
to fall on the just and the unjust."
In Luke 14:26-27, however, Jesus
employs the Hebrew usage described
above when he addresses the great
crowds following him and says: "If anyone
comes to me without hating his
father and mother, wife and children,
brothers and sisters, and even his own
life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever
does not carry his own cross and come
after me cannot be my disciple." The
New American Bible's footnote for this
passage notes the similar saying in
Matthew 10:37 and explains, "The disciple's
family must take second place to
the absolute dedication involved in following
Jesus (see also Luke 9:59-62)."
Other New Testament passages apply
hate as happening between one person
and someone else or in the Semitic
sense of prefer.
God cannot do anything that contradicts
what being God means. For
example, God cannot be dishonest or
unjust because that would contradict
God's truthfulness or justice. The three
persons of the Trinity cannot be in
competition with one another because
that would contradict God's unity.
Sometimes our language about God
is deliberately very selective. Saying
that God hates some people the way
that humans sometimes hate one another
could be interpreted as giving
someone permission to do the same.
If we cite a passage such as Malachi
1:1-3 or Romans 9:13 to justify our
hatred, we are taking that passage out
of context and giving it a meaning contrary
to how the faith community has
understood it. God might say: "Don't
use me to justify your hatred. Accept
responsibility for your actions. Come to
your senses and reject hatred!"
Q: Can the obligation to attend Mass
on holy days be fulfilled before or
after the actual day?
Likewise, can you fulfill the obligation to
attend Mass on Sunday on some other day?
Christmas fell on a Friday last year. Was
there an obligation to attend Mass the following
Sunday? Someone told me that attending
Mass that Friday already fulfilled the
Sunday obligation. I disagreed.
A: The obligation to attend Mass
on a holy day is separate from
the obligation for Sunday. If Christmas
falls on a Saturday, there is one obligation
for that holy day and a separate
one for the next day.
Attending a late afternoon or evening
Mass the day before the holy day or on Saturday fulfills these obligations.
There is no window, a couple days
beforehand or afterward. Bishops can
transfer some holy days to the nearest
Sunday, as is the case for the Feast of
Ascension in most of the United States.
My answer assumes that the person
can attend Mass on these days without
great hardship. If a priest is responsible
for several parishes or missions, it
might be physically impossible to celebrate
the Eucharist in each one on
every holy day or Sunday. If a person
were so sick that he or she could not
leave the house, then the obligation
would not apply during that illness.
But you did not indicate that was the
case in the situation that you described.
Q: Many TV shows include sexual remarks
or people sleeping with people
to whom they are not married. I don't
watch much television, but I do enjoy several
hospital-based programs that have
good plots but frequently include these
situations, which are becoming more and
Is it a serious sin for me to watch such
programs? Do I need to confess such viewing?
A: Because of my Irish heritage, I
will claim the right to answer
your questions with a question—in this
case, two: "How do you respond to the
saying, 'You become what you choose'?
Can you regularly choose something
that contradicts your deepest and most
important values without eventually
undermining those values and accepting
as normal radically different values?"
Watching a TV show in which extramarital
intercourse is common will not
make you do the same. But don't such
shows eventually influence your sense
of what is normal?
We cannot rewind our lives, so to
speak, and rerecord any past part that
we now regret. But we can decide
which elements of our past life we want
to reinforce in the future and which
ones we want to dilute—in the sense of
becoming less typical of us.
Many TV shows pride themselves on
being honest and hard-hitting. But how
honest is a TV show that implicitly
portrays adultery as an activity where
no one ever gets hurt as long as the
adultery is never discovered? The damage
is in the sin itself—not simply in its
I think that we are in danger of
becoming a voyeuristic society that
uses tabloids and certain TV programs
to keep up on gossip about the extramarital
affairs of sports stars, entertainment
celebrities or politicians. Are
we truly better off for knowing exactly
how many extramarital partners a certain
prominent person had or how he
or she tried to cover up those affairs?
Can we regularly read these publications
or watch those TV shows
without eventually sharing some responsibility
for the lowering of moral
standards in our society?
Perhaps you are at a point where you
need to confess watching those TV
shows. Based on what you wrote, I cannot
say. But I do know that it is always
worthwhile for people to ask themselves:
"Who am I becoming in the
long run? Am I kidding myself that
watching such shows is having only a
positive effect on my life? Am I happy
with what I consider normal?"
Q: Are we still expected to fast one hour before receiving Holy Communion?
I have seen a woman chewing gum as she comes into
Mass and is still chewing it as she stands in line to receive Holy Communion.
I was taught that this is not permitted.
A: You are correct that this is wrong. The current rule is that,
except for medicine and accompanying liquids, we are to fast
from solid food and any liquid other than water for one
hour before receiving Holy Communion.
The person who is chewing gum right up to receiving Holy Communion
might argue that she is not eating and thus not breaking this rule.
Unless she has been directed by her doctor to do this, I think a reasonable
person would agree that this action hardly shows proper respect for
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