Q: Why did God command the Jewish people to not eat certain “unclean foods,” but we are allowed by the Catholic Church to eat them today?
A: This is a very good question, for to this day there are people of different religions who have dietary restrictions with respect to their particular faith. We, as Catholics, are no different. But first, you refer to the instructions provided Moses and Aaron in the Book of Leviticus (Chapter 11).
The dietary restrictions provided the Jewish people were external symbols of their fidelity to God’s covenant with them. God would remain faithful to the covenant and he expected the people to hold to their end of the agreement as well. While some may explain that some forbidden foods actually could be dangerous to the people in ancient times, the deeper spiritual meaning was that the people would remain faithful to God’s covenant.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has fulfilled the Old Covenant that was made through Moses, and, so, there are no longer restrictions, such as food deemed unclean, for religious purposes. However, in acknowledging how Jesus sacrificed all so that we may have eternal life, we have our own Lenten penances, one of fasting and abstinence. These outward penances are meant to make an interior impression of how much you and I love God and continue to acknowledge all that he does for us.
Q: How can we hear Jesus’ voice when we are praying if we really can’t hear it?
A: This is one of those questions that deserves a yes or no type of answer. Here’s the answer: yes and no. Now that I have you confused, let me explain.
When Jesus speaks to us, he frequently speaks to us from within; we refer to that as Jesus speaking to your or my heart. We hear him best when we are free of distractions. When we let go of our own expectations and not attempt to put words in God’s mouth, we allow him to speak. This type of prayer is very difficult for we are prone to have thoughts and images going through our minds. Still, when praying with the Bible or reciting a prayer from the treasury of prayers of the Church, we recognize Jesus’ voice in the words, even if we recite them silently. Yes, Jesus speaks to us from the Bible and his words resonate within even if no external sound is made. Hearing Jesus is not limited to our ears.
On the other hand, we do hear Jesus when the Gospel is proclaimed at Church, and during the Eucharistic Prayer as the bread and wine undergo transubstantiation into Jesus’ Body and Blood. Jesus is speaking to us at the celebration of Mass each and every time. So, yes, we do hear Jesus’ voice and it comes in countless tones, accents and languages.
Q: How does the Church feel about genetic modification? Because I don’t believe we should mess with how God makes kids, but it can allow scientists to cure diseases?
A: This question is very timely, for certain people in the public media portray the Church as anti-science. In fact, faith and reason are not meant to be separated, but instead complement each other. While volumes of works continue to be published concerning our genetic knowledge and when it is responsible to utilize that particular resource, I will provide you with the common denominator: the human person.
We respect the gift of the human body, for it has been given to us by God himself. The technology we possess can benefit the overall health of the body or enhance one’s quality of life. Unfortunately, there are times when selfish intentions govern our actions, actions which can have dire consequences. For instance, we must avoid the mindset of creating designer children, namely, whether or not one will be a boy or girl, or have a preferred hair color or height. On the other hand, if we are able to remove a cancer or life-threatening illness in order for a child to live, we perform something laudable.
The gift of genetic knowledge presumes responsibility and not the reckless and reprehensible attitude of: “If we can do it, then it must be right.” We, made in God’s image and likeness, are better than that. Each child is a gift and we have the profound responsibility to assist that child, who also is made in God’s image and likeness. Our knowledge of genetics is a resource which can be of profound benefit to those whose lives may be in danger or in need of a cure.
In three more weeks, we will reach the summit of this mountain called Easter. Together, let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church or to complete the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. They are a blessing to us and a visible reminder not to take our faith for granted.
To “Ask the Bishop,” write, email or telephone Joseph M. Taylor, Diocese of Steubenville, Office of Christian Formation and Schools, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, email, firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone, (740) 282-3631.