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