Frequently Asked Questions
God reveals himself in Old Testament. Other men depended on creation alone for their knowledge of God. This led to false ideas so that men often ended up in worshipping creation itself. But God led the Hebrew people to a unique intimacy. This revelation began with the call of Moses, when God revealed his name: “I Am who I Am.” (Exodus 3:1-15)
God reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ. The apostle, Philip, said to Jesus: “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” And Jesus replied: “To have seen me is to have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
- What does God ask of me? That is, what is God’s law for me?
- How do I respond to what God asks of me? That is, how do I fulfill God’s law?
The Old Testament word for sin is hata: which means to miss the mark. Sin, in other words is our failure to reach the goal set us by God. Our failure is like the arrow which fails to reach its target: or like the stone thrown from the sling which has been badly aimed.
In the New Testament Jesus explains the kind of relationship between God and ourselves: it is the most intimate possible. We sin when we separate ourselves from God like the “Prodigal Son” separating himself from the intimacy of his father’s home. Sin is like leaving our loving Father.
Its true malice is to be judged, not primarily from the action itself, but from the evil in the heart. “It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder…” (Mark 7:20-21)
The guilt and effects of man’s unique “original” sin remain as the initial reason for sin in the world. In personal sin, for which each individual is actually responsible (actual sin), man freely follows his inclinations toward evil. This sin is symbolically described in the story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11).
Scriptures and Tradition tell us far more of restoration and redemption than of original integrity and original sin. “However great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater.” (Rom. 5: 20) In the story of Noah, for example, the rainbow becomes a sign of God’s promise of restoration. (Genesis 9)
The various stages of Jewish history are reflected in the preachings of the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. Sometimes they condemn. Sometimes they coax. But always they speak in God’s name, leading his People to love the one living and true God.
This love reaches its highest point in the Old Testament in the poetic literature, especially the Psalms. These hymns of worship reflected the Jewish longing for God and prepared them for the coming of Christ.
The words and miracles of Jesus confirms that Jesus is truly the Son of God. The crowning sign was his exultation when the Father resurrected Jesus from the tomb. Man’s friendship with God was restored. All men, when united with Christ, could now worship the Father perfectly.
In the public ministry of Jesus we can only glimpse the Holy Spirit. The true power of the Spirit was fully revealed only when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus’ miracles when, for example, he brought the dead Lazarus from the tomb, prepare us for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all men after the Resurrection.
It is through faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we become the sons of God. Jesus could only work where there was faith. To the woman who said to herself, “If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again”, Jesus replied: “Courage, your faith has restored you to health”. (Luke 8:48)
Jesus reveals himself as the Son who is sent: “I have come here from God… not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.” (John 8: 42) This mission reflects the truth that “the Person of the Son is from the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten.” (Athanasian Creed) The Son alone became man.
Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit as one who proceeds from the Father and the Son: “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.” This mission reflects the truth that “the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love.” (Credo of the People of God) The Holy Spirit completes the work of creation and salvation: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’.” (Galatians 4:6)
When, therefore, the Bishop of Rome speaks ex cathedra as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, he enjoys the infallibility promised by Christ to his Church. The whole Episcopate also enjoys this infallibility when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium. Ex cathedra means from the chair; which is the symbol of authority situated in the cathedral and from which the bishop preaches, teaches and presides at the liturgy.
The truth that the Pope teaches infallibly when he defines “a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church”, was always accepted by the Church but was explicitly defined by the First Vatican Council in 1870.
The sign of this repentance is baptism. Peter began his first sermon with the words: “You must repent, and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)