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Did John the Baptist Doubt Jesus? View Comments
by Father Pat McCloskey, OFM

In Matthew 11:2-3, we read that from prison John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is come, or should we look for another?” A similar story occurs in Luke 7:18-23.

John the Baptist was already leading people to Jesus. At the Visitation, John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb as the pregnant Mary approached (Lk 1:44). John later said, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God” (Jn 1:32-34). After John described Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:36), Andrew and another disciple left John to follow Jesus.

Was John the Baptist having doubts about who Jesus was?

John was probably not having doubts but rather was preparing his disciples for the person whom they should follow after John’s death. Christians today are very clear about the relationship of Jesus and John the Baptist, but that was not the case for all Christians in the first century AD. After all, John the Baptist was well known before Jesus began his ministry.

In the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Benedict Viviano, OP, writes about Matthew 11:2-6: “These verses contain a school of debate, probably of post-resurrection origin, over the nature of Jesus’ mission, held between disciples of John the Baptist and Christians.”

Jesus was not the type of Messiah that most of his contemporaries expected. Always concerned to show Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament, Matthew’s account implicitly links verse 5 to Isaiah 26:19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; and 61:1—all passages referring to God’s ultimate victory over evil.

Matthew’s Jewish Christian audience would have made this connection.

John the Baptist grew in his faith; his disciples’ encounter with Jesus that you cited helped them grow in their faith. The account in the Gospel of Matthew can help us grow in our faith.

We can always wonder about why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not explain something in more detail in the Gospels, but we should never allow our questions to overshadow what those evangelists very deliberately included.

Why Two Judgments?

In parochial school, I learned that there is a particular judgment when a person dies and that there will also be a general judgment at the end of the world. Why?

A discussion arose recently after the death of a beloved family member. My children had never heard of the two judgments. This made me question whether I remembered this correctly. Where can I find the Catholic Church’s teaching about this?

You remembered this teaching correctly. The part about the particular judgment affirms that God judges each person when he or she dies. The part about the general judgment recognizes three things, especially: 1) some people will still be alive when the world ends; 2) for those people, the particular judgment and general judgment will happen at the same time; and 3) God’s compassion and justice will eventually be fully revealed and vindicated.

God’s values can seem to be in the minority, but that will not always be the case. Those who have died and are in heaven (Sts. Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope, for example) will be reunited with their glorified bodies after the general judgment. Jesus and his mother simply have a head start in that regard. We entrust all the deceased to God’s mercy.

Sections 668 through 682 and 1038 through 1041 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describe the general judgment. Sections 1021 and 1022 describe the particular judgment.

Why Go Barefoot?

I know that some Carmelites are referred to as “discalced,” meaning that they don’t wear shoes. Is this some form of mortification?

Discalced Carmelites are the minority within the Carmelite family; mostly, they are cloistered. There have also been discalced Franciscans and members of other religious communities; they wear sandals (with or without socks). Some Poor Clares today do not wear shoes.

Wearing sandals was part of the 16th-century Spanish reforms of Sts. Peter of Alcantara, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross. Most of the Franciscans who came to Mexico and Central and South America in that century belonged to the Alcantarine Franciscan family.

The climate where a person lives is clearly a factor. A barefoot person living outdoors in northern Canada or in Alaska would eventually suffer from frostbite.

Is not wearing shoes or sandals a form of mortification? Yes. Is it necessary for salvation? No. This custom simply calls attention, in certain climates, to the difference between needs and wants.

Were All the Apostles Single?

Were all the apostles single men when they began to follow Jesus? Is there anything in the Bible on this? Is that why the Catholic Church ordains only single men?

We know that the apostle Peter had been married, but it is not clear if he was a widower when he began following Jesus. The cure of Peter’s mother-in-law is described in Matthew 8:14-15 (with similar accounts in Mark 1:29-31 and Luke 4:38-39). Some of the other apostles may have been married.

In 1 Corinthians 9:5, St. Paul asks, “Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?”

The author of the Letter to Titus says that a presbyter (whom we identify as a priest) should be “married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious” (1:6b).

The Catholic Church has authorized the ordination of married, former Episcopal priests or Protestant ministers. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches will ordain as priests men who have already married, but they do not allow men who were single when they were ordained to marry later.

Can a Catholic Marry a Lutheran?

My son received Baptism, holy Communion, and Confirmation as a Roman Catholic. At a Catholic university, he met his future bride, whom he will marry in her Lutheran church.

Will this marriage be recognized by the Catholic Church? Can a Catholic priest give a blessing?

Yes, this can be done as long as your son requests a “dispensation from canonical form” (meaning that the wedding is witnessed by a Catholic priest or deacon).

The Catholic Church recognizes the marriage of two baptized Christians who are free to marry each other as a valid, sacramental marriage.

Your son will need to contact his parish priest to apply for such a dispensation. The first contact should probably be at least six months before the wedding. A Catholic priest can participate in this wedding if the couple requests that.

I have been the Catholic Church’s official witness at several such marriages. I have also requested and received a different dispensation for couples where one person is not baptized

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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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