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Uneasy Feeling About a Decision
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

Do I Need To Pay Anything?
Why Was Jesus Baptized?
Receiving Communion in the Hand Is Not Sacrilegious
How Often Is Confession Required?
Elijah’s Body, Jesus’ Body


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 “pickup.”

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 court.

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 all righteousness.”

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 is lost.’”

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 year.”

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 that way?

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 accept that.

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. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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