Jesus among sinners

Question: I have a friend who says she is leaving the Catholic Church because of the new sexual abuse scandals. What can I say to convince her to stay?

— Name withheld

Answer: Begin with empathizing with her anger and grief at the latest revelations of clerical misbehavior. It is the worst sort of betrayal when a priest or bishop sexually harass and abuse their own people. The faithful are right to be especially angry and hurt since they entrust to the clergy’s care the thing they most need to be saved: their faith.

Having acknowledged this, nothing would please the Evil One more than to see a Catholic walk away from the sacraments and thereby be deprived of these graces. This is especially true if the devil can sever your friend from the Sacrament of Holy Communion, which is Jesus himself.

There is an old saying: “Don’t leave Jesus because of Judas.” In his earthly ministry, Jesus was among sinners, and many of the puritanical Pharisees took scandal. Indeed, Jesus was often found in strange company.

The same is true today; Jesus is found among sinners. One image for the Church in the Scriptures is Christ crucified between two thieves. To find Jesus, we must often look past many sinners and unpleasant realities.

Jesus said, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (Mt 11:6). So encourage your friend not to block her blessings on account of the scandals that Jesus said would inevitably arise (see Luke 17:1). Remind her that Satan will be delighted if she leaves and that she will become one more victim of these horrible abuses.

Who wrote the Gospels?

Question: My theology professor says that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels and that the names were just attached to give the accounts a certain authority.

—Name withheld

Answer: He speaks too absolutely. Part of the answer hinges on our understanding of the word “write.” If one examines the Gospels carefully, there is some evidence of different editors who helped compile what the ancient Church called the “Memoirs of the Apostles.”

To imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke or John sitting at a desk and writing their Gospels with their own hand is a simplistic understanding of what took place. Very few in the ancient world could write. Even St. Paul dictated his letters to a scribe. We can assume something similar in the Gospels.

Mark was known to be the secretary of Peter. Thus, as Peter went about preaching and teaching, we can imagine Mark wrote, edited and assembled his teachings in a coherent way. It is likely that John and Matthew also had disciples who helped in these ways, and we can assume that Matthew, Mark and John had a role in overseeing the compiling and editing of the Gospels that bear their names.

Luke’s Gospel, of all of them, was most immediately directed by him in terms of its composition. He indicates how he carefully interviewed eyewitnesses in compiling an accurate account of Jesus’ ministry (Lk 1:1-4). Whether he wrote it himself or dictated it to a scribe, it would seem that he compiled the account with personal care and oversight.

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So the four Gospels are connected with the authors whose name they bear. I recently wrote a book, “Catholic and Curious” (Our Sunday Visitor, $18.95). And while the work is mine, I can assure you that many editors had a hand in arranging and editing the material.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.