Q: The Bible tells of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, but Catholics believe that Mary had one child, Jesus. How can this be explained?

A: This is a very good question. It is important that we need understand that languages, which were used by people 2,000 years ago, did not exactly match the modern languages we use today. For instance, the words used to describe brothers and sisters in ancient Israel extended beyond one’s own immediate brothers and sisters, but also to one’s cousins. Our English language is much more specific in that our words do not embrace such a broad group of people as other ancient terms do.

Moreover, we also understand the truth that Mary, the Mother of God, had only one child; namely, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. The next children to which Mary was entrusted with were us, as Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, and John the Apostle, as he hung on the cross. Remember how Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son”?  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” This moment is pivotal in that Jesus entrusts the Catholic Church to Mary, who is our mother.

It is through Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, that Jesus would have had extended family, not unlike us. This further underscores the fact that while Jesus is God, he also shares fully in the attributes of humanity, especially having family.

Q: Why doesn’t the Bible explain Jesus’ life between the ages of 12 and 30?

The Bible is God’s revealed word. The Gospel stories underline the fact that Jesus is our salvation history and in these stories we travel with Jesus throughout his life.

We are familiar with significant moments in Jesus’ life, such as his conception in Mary’s womb and then being born, which we have the Nativity stories of Jesus in Bethlehem.  We even have further stories of Jesus being presented in the Temple and then later being found in the Temple at the age of 12. At this point, we “fast forward” to Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

The Gospel stories of Jesus are pivotal moments, as described by the four evangelists (the Gospel writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit) that the story they are telling is our salvation in the person of Jesus Christ.

While this explanation may not satisfy your curiosity, trust that Jesus, who is fully God, is also fully human. We confidently know that Jesus did become a teenager as well as that he was in his 20s, just like any one of us who have reached our 30s. Perhaps you and I can find further comfort in the fact that Jesus, who became a man, one of us, fully understands the joys and the challenges that you and I are confronted with in daily life. It does not matter whether or not we are 5 years old, 12 years old, 20 years old or 90 years old. Jesus understands.

Q: Will people who are not baptized still go to heaven?

A: Here is the long answer: Baptism is participation in the life of God. In this gift of the Sacrament of Baptism, we are brought into the Trinitarian life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Baptism, Original Sin is destroyed, and as a result, we more fully realize our potential as human beings made in God’s image and likeness. Unfortunately, this potential was lost by our first parents, Adam and Eve, with Original Sin.

We cannot fully reach our potential outside the reception of Baptism. Here you have raised a grave concern: Can one be received into Heaven having not been baptized? We are fully aware that we live in a world in which not all people have been baptized. We should pray for them. Of course, we do pray for them throughout the year, especially in the Prayers of the Faithful at the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Good Friday. This having being said, we also are confident in God’s Divine Mercy.  And so, as many among us will die not having been baptized, we entrust them with Jesus Christ’s Divine Mercy.

How fortunate we are to have this holy gift of the Sacrament of Baptism, for Jesus welcomes us into his life. Baptism is not “becoming a member of a club.” No, the Sacrament of Baptism is so much more, for Jesus gives us a gift of the highest blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a gift which is with us always. We also know when we sin we fail to remember this beautiful gift. How fortunate we are to have another beautiful gift in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which brings us back to that full embrace of Jesus Christ.

In the meantime, together let us pray for all of our brothers and sisters who have died, all those baptized and those nonbaptized, that we may have opportunity to be together again as one family in Jesus Christ.

   May you and your family have a most blessed Holy Week and celebration of the Easter Resurrection.

Youth who want to “Ask the Bishop” should contact the diocesan Office of Christian Formation and Schools. Questions should be addressed to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator. Questions can be mailed to Taylor at P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, or emailed to him at jtaylor@diosteub.org. He can be reached via telephone at (740) 282-3631.