July 6, 2014
Below is the next installment of my summer series from Our Sunday Visitor’s “Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked” (Click here to read Part I).
OSV offers a regular pamphlet series on various Catholic issues/teachings. Check out their website for more info.
Summer blessings, Fr. Brian
We Catholics are often asked tough questions about our Catholic faith and its relationship to the Bible. Here are the ten most-asked questions, and the answers that should help you satisfy both your questioner and yourself.
8. Why do you call your priest “Father”?
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Mt 23:9). In this passage, Jesus is teaching that God the Father alone is ultimately the source of all authority. But He is not speaking absolutely, because if so, that would eliminate even biological fathers, the title “Church Fathers,” the founding fathers of a country or organization, and so on. Jesus himself uses the term “father” in Matthew (15:4-5; 19:5, 19, 29; 21:31), John (8:56), and several other places. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus actually presents the Rich Man as using the address “Father Abraham” twice (Lk 16:24, 30 — see also Acts 7:2; Rom 4:12; Jas 2:21). St. Paul also uses the term when he writes, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15 — 1 Cor 4:14 16), and refers to “our forefather Isaac” (Rom 9:10).
7. Why do you pray for the dead?
The Bible clearly teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44 45): “Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen… [A]nd they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out….For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead….[H]e made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sins.” St. Paul teaches this in a similar way: “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (1 Cor 15:29). This indicates prayer and fasting for the dead. The word baptism often symbolically refers to penances (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50). The apostle Paul also appears to be praying for a dead person, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy (1:16-18).