Q: I am 82 years old and my son is 40.
When he was 16, he sold his motorbike
to a classmate for $300. A short time
later, that young man’s mother complained
to my wife that he had been overcharged
and that the bike did not have enough
My wife and I did not intervene in this
matter because we knew little about bikes
and we felt that our son knew right from
wrong. Now I wish that we had intervened.
Do I have a strict obligation to right a
possible wrong? It would probably be awkward
to contact and consult with the buyer
and reach an agreement. Should I inform
my son of my present concern? That too
would be awkward because he probably
has not thought about this sale for 25 years.
A: You have no obligation to do
anything about this now. First,
you are not certain that the purchaser
was wronged in the sale. That young
man might have had an opportunity to
ride the motorbike before the purchase.
If he was not satisfied with the purchase,
he should have taken this up
directly with your son, either cancelling
the sale or seeking some of his money
back. Also, he could have gone to small-claims
Second, perhaps the buyer was unhappy
with the bike, perhaps not. It is
also possible that he was satisfied even
though his mother was displeased.
If you tell your son that you now
wish you had intervened in the sale,
you may cause yourself more difficulty
than you are presently experiencing.
If you still feel that you need to do
something, you could always make a
donation to some charity for the difference
between what the young man
paid and what you estimate the bike
was actually worth.
Q: I don’t understand why Jesus was
baptized by St. John the Baptist.
Everyone else whom John baptized had
sinned and was showing sorrow by means
of receiving that baptism. That was not
the case with Jesus. Also, Christian Baptism
wipes away Original Sin, but Christ did
not have that.
A: You are right that Jesus had not
committed any sin and thus did
not need to be baptized. According to
Matthew 3:14, John initially declined,
saying that he needed to be baptized by
Jesus. Our Lord responded, “Allow it
now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill
The baptism of Jesus is part of his
self-revelation and the formal start of his
ministry. In its liturgy, the Church links
the birth of Jesus, his manifestation to
the Magi and his baptism much later.
Several Old Testament prophets had
visions that inaugurated their ministry
(see Isaiah 6:1-13, for example). The
baptism of Jesus is the first indication
in the Gospels of the Trinity, with the
voice of God the Father and the dove
representing the Holy Spirit (see also
Mark 1:10-11 and Luke 3:21-22).
If Baptism is the sacrament through
which people enter the Church, then
Jesus shows the way—identifying with
sinners though he was sinless.
Q: A friend of mine, a daily communicant,
says that receiving Holy
Communion in the hand is sacrilegious.
When I told my sister this, she asked, “How
did the apostles receive Holy Communion
at the Last Supper?”
A: Receiving Holy Communion in
the hand was approved as an
option by the U.S. bishops in May
1977, confirmed by the Holy See and
officially introduced that fall. Episcopal
conferences in most other countries
have given similar approval.
On June 14, 2001, the U.S. bishops
approved Norms for the Distribution and
Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States
of America. Section 41 reads: “Holy
Communion under the form of bread is
offered to the communicant with the
words, ‘The Body of Christ.’ The communicant
may choose whether to
receive the Body of Christ in the hand
or on the tongue. When receiving in the
hand, the communicant should be
guided by the words of St. Cyril of
Jerusalem: ‘When you approach, take
care not to do so with your hand
stretched out and your fingers open or
apart, but rather place your left hand as
a throne beneath your right, as befits
one who is about to receive the King.
Then receive him, taking care that nothing
According to Section 160 of the 2002
General Instruction of the Roman Missal,
“When receiving Holy Communion
standing, the communicant bows his or
her head before the sacrament as a gesture
of reverence and receives the Body
of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated
host may be received either
on the tongue or in the hand at the discretion
of each communicant.”
Your friend, a daily communicant, is
free to receive Holy Communion on
the tongue but can certainly not describe
as “sacrilegious” what the
Church has officially approved.
Unfortunately, some Catholics tend
to condemn for others what they do
not choose for themselves. In doing
so, they risk turning Christ’s sacrament
of unity into a sacrament of division. In
1 Corinthians 11:17-34, St. Paul rebukes
those Christians for making the
Eucharist a sign of division.
We do not know how the apostles
received Holy Communion at the Last
Supper, but I suspect that your sister is
correct in suggesting it was in the hand.
May all of us prepare well to receive
Holy Communion and then cooperate
generously with the grace of that sacrament!
Q: Is there an officially required frequency
of use of the Sacrament of
Reconciliation? My parish bulletin recently
listed “Go to Confession at least once a
year” under the heading “Precepts of the
Church.” My understanding has always
been that Confession is required in the
case of mortal sin, regardless of the interval
since the previous time, and that it is not
absolutely required otherwise. Is that so?
A: In 1215, the Fourth Lateran
Council issued a decree that
each Catholic should receive the Sacrament
of Penance at least once a year if
the person is conscious of having committed
a mortal sin since his or her last
Confession. This was reaffirmed at the
Council of Trent.
According to Canon 989 of the Western
Church’s Code of Canon Law, “All
the faithful who have reached the age
of discretion are bound faithfully to
confess their grave sins at least once a
The Church, however, continues to
recommend highly that we bring venial
sins to Confession. Section 1458 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“Without being strictly necessary, confession
of everyday faults (venial sins)
is nevertheless strongly recommended
by the Church. Indeed the regular confession
of our venial sins helps us form
our conscience, fight against evil tendencies,
let ourselves be healed by
Christ and progress in the life of the
Spirit. By receiving more frequently
through this sacrament the gift of the
Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be
merciful as he is merciful....”
The example of many saints confirms
the truth of this teaching. To
some extent, every sin redefines our
sense of what is normal, what is growing
within our lives. Regular Confession
helps us to ask the question, “Are the
right things growing in my life?” Regular
Confession can help us avoid the
slippery slope of describing everything
we prefer as “no big deal.”
Q: The accounts of Jesus’ Transfiguration before Peter, James and John
(Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36 and Matthew 17:1-8) refer to Moses and
Elijah as appearing with Jesus. I know that Moses actually died, but
Scripture says that Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot (2 Kings
2:11). Did Elijah die before entering heaven?
Also, is Jesus in heaven in his glorified body? Do people in heaven see him
A: Regarding Elijah’s death, we cannot go beyond the scriptural
evidence: 2 Kings 2:11, 1 Maccabees 2:58, Sirach 48:1-12 and the Gospel references. The Transfiguration shows
that Jesus is in harmony with the Law and the prophets (symbolized by
Moses and Elijah, respectively). Moses and Elijah presumably had some
kind of bodies that could be seen by Peter, James and John. The Gospels
are not interested in giving more detail on this point, and we should
Yes, Jesus is in heaven in his glorified body. See Matthew 25:31-46 and
26:64, with parallel passages in Mark and Luke. No doubt, people in
heaven recognize Jesus in his glorified body.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
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