Q: The 1982 edition of the King James
Bible reads, “For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life” (John
That passage in the 1991 New American
Bible reads, “For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him might not perish but
might have eternal life.”
Are these texts saying different things?
Does the first one reflect a Protestant
“Scripture-alone” approach? Is the Catholic
translation saying something different?
A: In fact, the words “should” in
the King James Bible translation
and “might” in the New American Bible text perform the same function by
introducing a note of caution: Human
beings cannot gain leverage over God
by any means. The genuineness of any
person’s faith is known to God alone.
Although we interpret certain external
actions as evidence of faith, human
judgments will always be less complete
than God’s. Many people have been
inspired by the drive by William
Wilberforce (d. 1833) to outlaw slavery
or the compassion shown by Jean
Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community
that welcomes developmentally
disabled adults and caregivers.
Genuine faith necessarily leads to
faith-filled action. For this reason, Jesus
says, “Not everyone who says to me,
‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of
heaven, but only the one who does the
will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew
Similarly, St. Paul wrote to the Christians
in Galatia, “For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
counts for anything, but only faith
working through love” (5:6).
In James 2:17 we read, “Faith of
itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
If faith does not lead us to works of
compassion, then it is not real faith.
That is why the Church speaks of a living
faith, a faith that performs acts of
love and gives us a solid foundation
for hope of eternal life.
Faith is more than an interior feeling.
There are no Protestant or Catholic
shortcuts around God. Genuine faith
inevitably moves toward influencing
every nook and cranny of a believer’s
life. Faith-filled words and actions cannot
put God in debt to anyone; rather,
they prepare us to live more truthfully
and thus ever more gratefully.
Q: The Gospel of Matthew makes it
sound as though Jesus is contradicting
himself. After he tells his disciples
that they are the light of the world, he
adds, “Just so, your light must shine before
others, that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father” (5:16).
In the following chapter, however, Jesus
says, “Take care not to perform righteous
deeds in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense
from your heavenly Father” (6:1). Jesus
goes on to explain that our almsgiving and
our praying should be in secret.
Is there no “middle ground” here? If
so, where and what is it?
A: Jesus is warning his followers
that works of compassion and
prayer can easily become hollow if the
initiators are primarily concerned about
adequate recognition and acclaim. A
third passage from Matthew may help
here. When Jesus describes the Last
Judgment, he says that God will say to
the just, “I was hungry and you gave
me food, I was thirsty and you gave
me drink, a stranger and you welcomed
Total anonymity is not always possible
when we help those in material or
spiritual need. What is done and in
what spirit this compassion is offered
matter far more than having our contribution
carefully noted and publicly
applauded. The women and men
praised in the Last Judgment scene described above were acting according
to what they considered normal. Unfortunately,
those condemned for neglecting
those same actions had followed a
very selfish understanding of “normal.”
The Gospels tell us that Jesus often
prayed in public, worshiping in synagogues
and in the Temple in Jerusalem.
There are proper times for both public
and private prayer. The primary motive,
however, is the same: to praise God
and ask God’s help to live as someone
created to share life with God.
Publicity is always a cross for genuinely
virtuous people. Blessed Mother
Teresa of Calcutta nursed the sick and
cared for those dying whether cameras
were present to record her work or not.
Her compassion could be and, in fact,
Public prayer can be a powerful support
for other people, especially those
who have recently experienced some
tragedy. After 9/11, Masses and prayer
services for those who died, were
injured or were missing, or for their
friends and relatives, drew great numbers
of people far beyond New York
City, Washington, D.C., or Shanksville,
Pennsylvania. That was not a time to
exalt private prayer at the expense of
public prayer. Both are urgently needed.
Genuine compassion and prayer
reflect the same faith, whether they
are done in public or in secret. I suspect
that Jesus might have enjoyed Moliere’s
play Tartuffe, a powerful indictment of
religious actions done for show.
Authentic religion prepares us for
the Eternal Banquet, whose participants
already enjoy the greatest reward
possible: sharing God’s life forever.
Q: My husband and I are wondering if
it is required to have a Mass at our
eventual funerals. It seems that nonpracticing
Catholics often receive Holy
Communion at funeral Masses. Must we
have a service at a funeral home to avoid
A: Yes, you can have only a Liturgy
of the Word at a funeral home,
but I would urge you to reconsider that.
If the Mass is the source and summit of
your life as a Catholic, why wouldn’t
you want it as part of your funeral? Is
God so fragile that the Almighty needs
your help after death to prevent people
not properly disposed from receiving
Holy Communion? This issue is on
that person’s conscience—not on yours.
On January 13, Bishop Nicholas
DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn
approved opening the cause for the
beatification of Msgr. Bernard Quinn
(1888-1940), a chaplain gassed during
World War I. Despite those lifelong
effects, Quinn founded St. Peter Claver
Parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the
diocese’s first parish for African-Americans. One of his grandnieces and
her family were present at the Mass
there when this cause was opened.
Msgr. Quinn, who described himself
as “an adopted son of the Negro race,”
also established St. Benedict the Moor
Parish in Jamaica, New York, and the
Little Flower Orphanage on Long
Island. This orphanage for African-American children was twice burned
by the Ku Klux Klan and rebuilt.
On January 27, Cardinal Edward
Egan of New York opened the cause of
Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, C.S.P.,
founder of the Missionary Society of St.
Paul the Apostle (more commonly
known as the Paulists).
Raised a Methodist, Hecker (1819-1888) became a Catholic and a Redemptorist
priest before he founded the
Paulists in 1858, hoping to show that
the deepest principles of the Catholic
Church and of the United States are
highly compatible. He is buried at St.
Paul the Apostle Church on Columbus
Avenue in Manhattan, where the Mass
opening his cause was celebrated.
Q: I am in my middle 60s and am seriously thinking about my
inevitable passing some day. How can I know that my soul exists?
How can I make my soul happier now and at peace with the
Lord? How can I be sure that God loves me enough to forgive me
for all my sins? I feel very unworthy before God.
A: Only a soul yearning for God could find these three questions
to be as urgent as you find them. Only alert human beings
can be self-reflective in this way.
The best way to make your soul happy and at peace with the Lord is
to live in such a way that you have a clear conscience, that is, you have
repented of whatever needs repenting and have tried to undo any damage
your sins have caused. If God created you to share divine life, why
couldn’t God forgive all the sins for which you are truly sorry? Jesus, the
innocent one who died for the guilty, reminds us that God’s love is
never stingy. That’s why the dying Jesus told a repentant terrorist,
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be
mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.