Q: Did the Wise Men think Jesus was one of the many gods (were they polytheists)?

A: Good question, for there are many understandings of who the Magi were who visited the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago. While there is much speculation, it seems there are a few items that we can understand from our reading of the Bible and our appreciation of ancient history, especially in the area of Persia.

In the time of King Nebuchadnezzar (you may look him up in the Book of Daniel), the Magi were part of his royal court and they interpreted dreams as well as were specialists in astrology. Here we have the understanding of the Magi following the star, which we get from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 2. The Magi would have been curious about this star and probably would have searched for its direct location over the Holy Land.

The ancient Persians were polytheists; in other words they believed in many gods, so we may surmise that so were the Magi.

Having the Magi visit Jesus demonstrates to us that Jesus Christ’s arrival into this world was not simply for the Chosen People, namely the Jewish people, but for all of humanity. The Magi were ambassadors of a sort for peoples that would eventually learn of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Q: How long does it take to get out of purgatory?

A: While purgatory does exist, we also understand it is not simply a place like Steubenville or Atlanta. What we do know is that a purification occurs during the soul’s participation in purgatory. Purgatory prepares the soul to be properly disposed to see Jesus Christ and to, consequently, remain with God for all eternity.

This being said, it is, of course, God’s decision when one is ready to enter heaven. This may seem like a lot to understand, for you and I live in a world in which we measure time in all we do. In the reality of purgatory what most matters is one’s unworthiness to go to heaven but that, through purification, that will not always be the case. We use time in this world to understand purgatory because as all of us are aware, time is the measurement we have here in measuring the sequence of events or to ready oneself for a destination. How blessed we are to know that God prepares us for our final destination, which is heaven.

Q: How does the bishop know so much about God and the Church?

A: On Sept. 10, 2012, through the Sacrament of Ordination, I received the three functions and powers to teach, to sanctify and to govern. However, that holy moment of receiving God’s Grace did not provide me with an IQ of 250. As a matter of fact, I have learned this past year and a half in a profound way my limitations as a human being striving for holiness.

You and I need Jesus Christ. Every day we need him. Every day I celebrate Mass and pray the Office of Readings, which is the common prayer of the Church and of which I have promised to pray daily. I also take a Holy Hour with the Lord and have opportunity throughout the day, sometimes albeit briefly, to reflect and meditate on parts of the Bible. Still, with all of this prayer time, I also realize the temptation for the bishop “to live in a bubble.” Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is quite clear that my brother bishops and I must get out into the world and be with our people. The odometer on my car certainly illustrates the fact that I do not stay in one place too long.

My brother bishops are a great source of wisdom for me as I exercise my episcopal (bishop’s) ministry, as do my brother priests as we share our priestly ministry as celebrants of the Holy Eucharist and as they serve as pastors of their respective parishes, as are the outstanding people on my chancery staff in Steubenville. Notwithstanding, I also have the opportunity to visit with parish communities and their families as well as, of course, our schools. Further assistance to my ministry is my getting out, even on the street in Steubenville, Marietta or Ironton, to see the people. Yes, I even learn a lot when attending a high school football game.

Having said all this, my conclusion to this is simple: My beginning to know so much about God and his Church is my self-knowledge as I really don’t know as much as I should. This attitude is humbling, but also essential to a shepherd in our Church, which embraces the true faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God who suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead in order that you and I may have eternal life. Jesus will never leave us and wants us to understand more fully the depth of his love.
Together may we, with ardent desire, climb the Easter Mountain of Lent, keeping our eyes always on the one who loves us so much, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

To “Ask the Bishop,” contact the diocesan Office of Christian Formation and Schools, Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, email, jtaylor@diosteub.org or telephone, (740) 282-3631.