Greater works

Question: In John 14:12, Jesus says that we will do greater works than these because he goes to the Father. But how could we do greater works than Jesus?

Peter Tate, Long Beach, California

Answer: There are two common ways of understanding Jesus’ words here. One way to see “greater” is as a reference to the fact that the apostles will go throughout the world, and thus, the sheer number of miracles will be greater. But most find this explanation unsatisfying since “greater” implies quality more than quantity.

Another explanation is that Jesus, speaking here to the apostles, is referring to the power of the sacraments they will work, which far surpass the value of merely physical miracles. To go from being a leper to being clean, or from being paralyzed to being able to walk, or even from physical death to being alive again, are all examples of natural change or effect. But to be born unto a new life by baptism is to become a whole new creation and be taken out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light; it is to become a member of the Body of Christ and to rise to a whole new life. This is a supernatural effect.

It is the same with the other sacraments, where bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ; where sins are actually (not just ritually) forgiven; where two become one in holy matrimony; and so forth. The sacraments of Jesus are “greater works” than the healing miracles.

Question: Why and when was the fourth decade of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary changed from the circumcision of Jesus to the presentation?

Bill Bandle, Manchester, Missouri

Answer: It wasn’t. I think you may have confused the presentation and the circumcision. The circumcision took place eight days after Jesus’ birth. The presentation of Jesus in the Temple took place 40 days after his birth.

Joseph and Mary went to the Temple to present Jesus in accord with the dictates of the Law (Ex 13:12-15), which says that every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord. They also fulfilled Leviticus 12:1-4, which instructs that a woman is to convalesce for 40 days after giving birth as her body is purified, and then the couple is to offer a lamb or two turtle doves on the 40th day to complete her purification.

Thus the liturgical title of the feast of the Presentation was called the Feast of “the Purification of Mary.” However, the fourth mystery of the Rosary has consistently been termed “the presentation.”

Question: I recently lost my husband of 36 years and long to be reunited with him one day. Will we know each other in heaven?

Cecile Forte, Location withheld

Answer: I am sorry for your loss. You most certainly will know each other in heaven, and in a far more perfect and intimate way.

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There is a tendency to read too much into Jesus’ words that in heaven people neither marry nor are given in marriage. The first meaning of Jesus’ words is that we cannot merely compare heaven to earthly realities. Heaven is richer. Secondly, sexual intimacy will no longer have purpose, and we will live more like the angels. But marital love is perfected in heaven, not discarded. Thus, your knowledge, love and intimacy with your husband (and family members) will be deeper, richer and stronger in heaven, not less.

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 Send questions to