Q: I am an 80-year-old Roman Catholic
who has tried to adjust to many
changes in the Church. Although I have
discussed the questions below with several
priests, I have never received a better answer
than “That’s the way it is.” Can anybody
explain these things?
Why does our Sunday worship aid
speak of “the Gospel According to Luke”
instead of saying “St. Luke”? When Judas
betrayed Jesus, he received money according
to the Gospel, but I was taught that it
was 30 pieces of silver. Why the change?
Didn’t Judas return the money and then
At the Last Supper, Jesus blessed bread
and wine, but a Gospel passage read not
long ago has Jesus asking for food and
then eating some baked fish. That passage
had nothing about the Apostle Thomas
asking for proof of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Is it true that Mary Magdalene was the
first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection?
A: Thanks for seeking answers to
these questions. Faith grows
through seeking answers, as you are
doing. This includes trying to understand
better the Scriptures we read and
the liturgy that is our public prayer.
Denying that questions matter or even
exist simply gives them greater power.
The priest or deacon now introduces
the Gospel at Mass by saying, “A reading
from the holy Gospel according to ...”
and then inserts the name of the evangelist.
The Ordo Missae Cum Populo,
printed in the back of the Sacramentary,
indicates the Latin text as “Lectio
sancti Evangelii secundum N.,” with
“N.” representing the name of the
In announcing the Gospel, the priest
or deacon is acting like a herald, proclaiming
the authority of what he is
about to read. In the English and Latin
texts quoted above, the emphasis is on “Gospel” rather than on the individual
author whom God inspired.
Omitting the title “saint” in no way
denies that for centuries the Church has
venerated Matthew, Mark, Luke and
John as saints. The feast of St. Luke, for
example, is celebrated on October 18. I
very much doubt that any of the four
evangelists would feel slighted if he
heard his Gospel announced without
his being identified as a “saint.” The emphasis
is on Jesus, not on the evangelist.
We hear different Gospels in their
entirety each liturgical year. The Gospel
of Matthew (Year A) says that Judas
was paid 30 pieces of silver (26:15).
Mark (Year B) and Luke (Year C) refer
to “money” but do not specify the
amount. Only Matthew 27:3-10 describes
the death of Judas.
The story that Jesus ate baked fish
(Luke 24:42-43) is after the Resurrection,
not at the Last Supper, where he
indeed blessed bread and wine. The
story about Thomas’s desire to see Jesus’
wounds occurs in a different Gospel
According to John 20:11-18, Mary
Magdalene was indeed the first person
to see Jesus after the Resurrection.
Your questions indicate the difficulty
we sometimes have in keeping different
Gospel accounts separate. They easily
blend into a single text in our minds—
and that’s not all bad. But we need to
give the different evangelists credit for
their distinct stories, each one emphasizing
what God inspired that writer
To get a sense of the uniqueness of
each evangelist, you may want to set
aside time and read a single Gospel
from beginning to end. Then repeat
that process on other days for the other
I encourage you to keep asking whatever
questions you need to ask—and to
remember that the correct answer may
Seeking a Book on Catholic Social Teaching
Q: I understand that the Holy See has
published a book that outlines
Catholic social teaching from Leo XIII’s
1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum until the
present. Where can I purchase it?
A: On October 25, 2004, the Pontifical
Council for Justice and
Peace published Compendium of the
Social Doctrine of the Church. Part One
reviews general principles and Part Two
has separate chapters addressing the
family, human work, economic life,
political community, international
community, safeguarding the environment
and the promotion of peace.
In March 2005 the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops began
distributing the 446-page English edition.
You can purchase it through any
Catholic bookstore, including St. Francis
Bookshop here in Cincinnati.
Q: Although I am tortured by my
search for God, I continue the struggle.
The Book of Job is of some help, but
I still find myself wondering about God’s
role in our desperation and destitution.
What does this say about God and human
nature? I realize that a brief answer is
impossible. Any suggestions about helpful
books would be appreciated.
A: Thanks for writing. Please be
assured that the search is worth
the struggle. The Book of Job is a profound
meditation on good, evil and
God’s relationship to each. It was obviously
written by someone who experienced
and rejected several popular
explanations of that relationship.
The Book of Job tells us two central
truths: 1) The theology of Job’s friends
is not reliable (They say that all Job’s
problems are caused by unacknowledged
sins; if Job admits them and
repents, then God will take away the
scourges), and 2) Job cannot question
God as an equal (“Out of whose womb
comes the ice?” asks God (38:29).
Chapters 38 through 41 present God’s
responses to Job’s accusations and constitute
a masterpiece of theology.
In fact, God expresses anger at Job’s
three friends, whose speeches take up
most of the book, because they have not
spoken rightly about God as Job has
done (42:7). Job is to offer a sacrifice on
their behalf and to pray for them.
Most of our suffering is not the result
of “natural disasters” (floods, earthquakes,
hurricanes, etc.). Most human
suffering arises from an abuse of human
freedom, as the front-page stories in
your newspaper verify daily.
God could have made a world without
genuine human freedom, but such
a world could hardly include genuine
human love because such love cannot
exist without freedom.
We easily shift the problem onto
God (for creating a defective world) or
onto the suffering person (as Job’s
friends did), but neither approach
truly works. The world that God created
is not defective; some suffering
is, in fact, totally innocent.
What books can I suggest? On a popular
level, I have found Mere Christianity,
The Screwtape Letters and The Great
Divorce (all by C.S. Lewis) helpful. Paula
D’Arcy’s Gift of the Red Bird: The Story of
a Divine Encounter (available in print
from Crossroad Publishing and as an
audiobook from St. Anthony Messenger
Press) addresses these topics. In On Job:
God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent (Orbis), Gustavo Gutierrez masterfully
analyzes these issues.
Books can help in your search, but so
can a compassion that grows as we perform
the works of mercy (see Matthew
Q: I am interested in becoming a Catholic, but I don’t know where to
start. I don’t have any good friends who are Catholic, and the
thought of simply calling up a Catholic parish and stating my
interest is pretty intimidating. Is there anything on the Internet that
can help me get started?
Whether you have been baptized already or not, becoming
a Catholic is a process of discernment and preparation. The
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) prepares the unbaptized for
Baptism in the Catholic Church; it also prepares those already baptized
in another Church for “reception into full communion with the Catholic
Most parishes have an RCIA group that usually begins in the fall and
concludes in the spring at Easter. Participants receive instruction about
Catholic beliefs and practices and begin to share in the faith life of
that parish. You can find the parish nearest you through www.MassTimes.org.
On this Web site,
if you go to the “Update Your Faith” section and click on Catholic Update and then “Archives,” you will find over 150 live links to past issues of that
popular newsletter. You can start with any link that has “RCIA” in its title;
many of the other live links there will also be helpful.
Best wishes for your continuing faith journey!
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.