is James, Brother of the Lord?
shows and books refer to St. James as the brother of Jesus. In the Apostles’ Creed
we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,....” If St. James is
Jesus’ brother, would James not also be God’s son? Were Mary and Joseph the parents
the brother of the Lord” has puzzled people for centuries. The New Testament refers
to three men named James.
James, brother of John the Apostle, himself
an apostle and a son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21, etc.), is called James the Greater.
He was martyred by King Herod Agrippa I about 41 A.D. (Acts 12:2) and is venerated
in Santiago de Compostela (Spain).
James, son of Alphaeus, also an apostle
(Matthew 10:3, etc.), is known as James the Lesser. He was clubbed to death and is
often confused with “James, the brother of the Lord.”
This third James is the brother of Joseph/Joses,
Simon and Judas of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). Jesus appeared to this James
after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). With Peter, he led the earliest Christian
community in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21), is mentioned by St. Paul (Galatians
2:12) and was stoned to death in 62 A.D. on the high priest’s orders.
This James is the presumed author of
the New Testament’s Letter of James. He may have been Jesus’ cousin; other members
of his family headed the Church in Jerusalem until that city was destroyed in 70
For us, the term “brother” means a male
relative sharing identical parents with the person who calls him “brother.” The term,
however, in some societies can include other male relatives, even cousins.
Jesus uses “brother” in an even wider
sense in Mark 3:35 (“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and
mother”), Matthew 25:40, Luke 22:32 and John 20:17.
The Catholic Church maintains that Mary
had only one child, Jesus, who was not biologically the son of Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25
and Luke 1:34-35).
Already in the second century, the Protoevangelium
of James described these “brothers of Jesus” as children of Joseph by a previous
marriage. St. Jerome (d. 420) considered them cousins of Jesus.
Matthew 13:56 and Mark 6:3 refer to Jesus’ sisters
but give no names.
There is no scriptural evidence that
Joseph was a single parent before marrying Mary. Raymond Brown’s An Introduction
to the New Testament (Doubleday) has more on this subject.
Do the Saints Help Us?
you think that saints can help us out? Can you be sure that they are there and
that sometimes they talk to you?
think saints help us out primarily by inspiring us to believe that holiness is possible
for us—right here, right now.
At Mass, one of the prefaces for the
saints says: “God, you renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women
outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of your unchanging love. They inspire us
by their heroic lives, and help us by their constant prayers to be the living sign
of your saving power.”
In rare situations, saints may speak
to some people. Most often, the saints help us through their encouraging example
to live the Good News generously.
Food and Water?
today really encourage people to have living wills. Is it permissible for patients
to choose to have water and food withheld in case of very severe illness? I think
this is suicide.
medical directives” are more common today than living wills. Usually linked to a
power of attorney, these directives identify who is to make medical treatment decisions
if the patient cannot.
“Living wills” indicate the use or nonuse
of procedures available when the will was written. Such wills often address
terminal illness but not other medical conditions. New technologies often arise after
a living will is formulated.
The moral obligation to maintain nutrition
and hydration is a disputed issue among moral theologians today. Some argue that
withdrawing these is permitted if the person is in a persistent vegetative state;
others deny that.
In 1995 the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops issued “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health-Care Services.” The
bishops say, “There should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration
to all patients, including patients who require medically assisted nutrition and
hydration, as long as this is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved
to the patient” (#58).
The bishops acknowledge that in some
cases maintaining nutrition and hydration could involve excessive burdens for a patient.
In an address to the bishops of California,
Nevada and Hawaii (October 2, 1998), Pope John Paul II said that the NCCB’s 1995
statement “rightly emphasizes that the omission of nutrition and hydration intended
to cause a patient’s death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration
to all the factors involved, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically
assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them.”
This issue is treated in the Catechism
of the Catholic Church (#2278) and the 1995 encyclical, Gospel of Life (#65).
Chapter 13 of Father John Dietzen’s Catholic Life in a New Century (Guildhall Publishers,
1997) can help people reflect on their approach to medical treatments. They should
share their conclusions with loved ones.
years ago my unbaptized granddaughter was murdered. She was two years old.
I know what the Bible says regarding
Baptism, but the thought of her soul not ever being in heaven has taken control
of my thoughts so much that I am frequently depressed.
Are unbaptized souls in a state of
eternal happiness outside heaven or do they go to hell forever? I pray for my granddaughter’s
am very sorry to learn of your granddaughter’s murder and your anxiety over whether
she can be saved. Thanks for writing.
I cannot imagine that a good and just
God would allow a murdered, unbaptized two-year-old to be anywhere except in heaven.
The Order of Christian Funerals, approved
by the Holy See for use in the United States, includes two prayers for children who
died before Baptism:
“O Lord, whose ways are beyond understanding,
listen to the prayers of your faithful people: that those weighed down by grief at
the loss of this child may find reassurance in your infinite goodness....”
“God of all consolation, searcher of
mind and heart, the faith of these parents is known to you. Comfort them with the
knowledge that the child for whom they grieve is entrusted now to your loving care....”
The way we pray indicates what we believe.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “As regards children who have
died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she
does in her funeral rites for them.
“Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires
that all [people] should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused
him to say, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that
there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.
“All the more urgent is the Church’s
call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (#1261).
Even according to earlier Church teaching,
your granddaughter would be not in hell but in limbo, a state of natural happiness
without enjoying God’s presence.
Why was there a teaching about limbo,
anyway? It filled a gap. If you believe that Jesus Christ came for the salvation
of all people and if you believe that Jesus sent the apostles to preach the Good
News inviting people to be baptized, then you might tend to think that only baptized
people can be saved.
If you do that, then you need a place
for good people who were never baptized. Limbo was that place. The 1992 Catechism,
however, maintains a very deliberate silence about limbo. We should take note of
Your granddaughter has been at peace
for three years now. I hope that you too can be at peace—even as you ache for her
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