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The morality of interest
Q. It was the teaching of the Church for centuries that charging interest on money was seriously sinful. Obviously the Church has changed its mind on this. How and why did this change happen?
R.C, Murray, Utah
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
When commerce between people changed from being a process of bartering over goods to a money exchange system, the practice of borrowing and lending money developed. This task was largely associated with Jews in medieval Europe -- Jews got a bad rap for charging interest and, unfortunately, the myth developed that Jews were miserly. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, however, permitted Jews to lend money at interest. (These were the days when Church and state were closely intertwined.)
With the rise in capitalism, the Church abandoned its opposition to the charging and paying of interest. Beginning in the 16th century, when civil law and canon law began to take separate paths, the moral perception of interest began to change. Moral theology today is not opposed to the operation of a "reasonable" rate of interest.
Made Worthy of the Promises of Christ
Q. The ending of several prayers, say, “May we made worthy of the promises of Christ.” What are the promises of Christ? Is there a list?
Ken in Illinois
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Council of Florence, states: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit…and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as [children] of God” (No. 1213).
This alone, together with baptism’s promise of everlasting life in God’s kingdom, would be an immense gift from our Savior, but his death and resurrection have also — among other trophies — won us the privilege to call God “Father,” conferred on us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, united us with every other Christian in God’s Church, and given us the strength to bear witness to our faith (see No. 1303).
Christ’s love for us is infinite, so no list can completely number his promises or his gifts. And with our manifold weaknesses and imperfections, we can never hope completely to live up to the standards Christ has set. However, we can — and should — pray that we may cooperate with his grace so that our lives on earth may be holy and, thus, worthy of the everlasting life he has promised.
Why Write in the Third Person?
Q. In the Gospel written by Matthew, why does Matthew write in the third person when referring to himself? For example: "As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post" ( 9:9). Why doesn't Matthew say, "He saw me," instead of "he saw a man named Matthew"?
Peter Holtz, Hicksville, N.Y.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
Perhaps it was modesty on St. Matthew's part that led him to refer to himself in the third person. But it was also a practice followed by St. John in writing his Gospel. His name does not appear in the Fourth Gospel, yet he refers to himself half a dozen times.
Three times John identifies himself as the disciple "whom Jesus loved" (13:23; 21:7; 21:20), with two further references to himself as the "disciple" (21:23; 21:24).
In sharp contrast, St. Paul frequently speaks of himself in the first person. But St. Paul was writing letters and could rightly speak in the first person.
The Gospel authors, on the other hand, were setting forth key elements of the Church's tradition. That fact, I believe, made it incumbent on them to adopt a more formal style of writing and to avoid directing the readers' attention to the author.
Homily from the Floor?
Q. Is it right for a priest who celebrates the holy Mass to say the homily outside of the pulpit? This priest is saying his homily standing on the floor. He also sings while giving us the Body of Jesus Christ during holy Communion. Is that allowed?
Purisima, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Nothing prohibits the priest from preaching the homily from the floor. But as for singing while distributing holy Communion, that is most unusual.
The minister of holy Communion is to say, "The Body of Christ," or "The Blood of Christ," as the case may be, and it's hard to do that while you're singing.
Perhaps he just got distracted and got carried away with the emotion of the moment, or he felt he had to lend his voice to help the congregation carry the tune? In any case, that's not allowed.
Q. What does it really mean to be “born again,” which is popular with some Protestants.
Pat, Warren, Mich.
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus states unequivocally, “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5). The Church, therefore, uses water and Jesus’ own words, “Go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:18) to confer the birth that admits us to God’s kingdom.
The Sacrament of Confirmation increases and deepens the grace we receive at baptism (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1303), but baptism alone is necessary for the spiritual rebirth that cleanses us of sin and makes us God’s children (see No. 1250).
Some individuals may feel that these sacramental rites are too formal — or conferred at too early an age — to engage fully the external spiritual and emotional lives of those who receive them. Such individuals, therefore, find great consolation in a more personal act of commitment to Christ. Such an act, often accompanied by laying on of hands, or other gestures, is frequently compared to the disciples’ ecstatic experience at Pentecost. This may be quite moving and, indeed, signify the rebirth of a person’s faith, but it should not be confused with the Sacrament of Baptism.
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