What are the synoptic gospels?
You may have listened to a gospel story, and, while it sounded familiar, you could have sworn you heard it differently before. Perhaps there was a detail you had never noticed. Or maybe the whole story, while recognizable, was not how you remembered it. Don't worry. Your memory is not faulty.
Why are priests celibate?
Celibacy is one of the most widely recognized characteristics of a Roman Catholic priest. But though it is well known, celibacy itself is often misunderstood.
Technically, celibacy is the commitment not to marry. In the Latin (Roman) Catholic Church, it is a prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood. The candidate must freely assume this obligation publicly and for life. Because church teaching reserves sexual activity to marriage, celibacy also requires abstinence.
What future did Paul see for his letters?
For most of the year Christians hear a part of a letter of St. Paul read during Sunday worship. But if you had stopped Paul on the street in some place like Corinth and asked him if he thought his letters would become a permanent part of Christian liturgy and that his faith would make him the father of Christian theology, he probably would have laughed at you, in between dodging stones.
Who were the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, chief priests, and elders?
"By what authority are you doing these things?" (Mark 11:27-28). With this and similar questions the gospels relentlessly portray Jesus' opponents—the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees—as bad guys who resisted Jesus at almost every turn and conspired to have him killed.
The gospel accounts, however, tend to lump these folks together and offer very little information about who they were. Understanding them better helps us to grasp why the New Testament depicts them as such villains.
Is it impolite to be on a first name basis with God?
I often teach men and women who return to college later in life to complete a degree. It is not unusual that some of them are older than I am, and I often invite them to use my given name, John. Very few take me up on the offer. When I ask why, they say it just doesn't seem right. "You're the professor," they insist.
Some of these same dynamics may have been at work in the Vatican this summer, when the Congregation for Divine Worship directed that the proper name of God, Yahweh, not be used in any manner during the liturgy.
Are the gospels historical?
People today tend to think that history is pretty much about facts. Though history is always interpreted, the aim of history is to uncover facts to paint a picture of the past as it more or less happened. So to ask if the gospels are historical is the same as asking, "Did things really happen that way?"
How did we get a creed?
Christianity has always emphasized faith as a person's life-defining response to Jesus Christ. Early Christians put their deepest convictions about God, creation, and salvation into set forms known as "creeds" that served as badges of identity.
Who do we think we are?
The church isn't always the loving Body of Christ we imagine ourselves to be. James Carroll nevertheless defends our faith in God, who saves us imperfect human beings from ourselves.
One of the best people I know volunteers in a church-sponsored soup kitchen in a big city. I visited him recently and was deeply moved to watch as he and other volunteers graciously and respectfully served their "guests," beleaguered men and women who otherwise are treated as social outcasts.
Will the real Jesus please stand up?: An interview with Daniel Harrington, S.J.
Yes, the gospels present four different portraits of Jesus. That's the whole point.
Like many Catholics of their generation, Daniel Harrington's family wasn't made up of Bible readers. Harrington recalls two Protestants coming to his house when he was a child. "We'd like to discuss the Bible," they said, to which his mother replied, "We're Catholics. We don't read the Bible."
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