Q: What is the most important factor in being faithful to God?
A: In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus instructs us that, “You should love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus goes on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Here we live our lives as God intends.
Remember how the first sin of the human race, Original Sin, was through the lack of love for God? Jesus has undone that horrible moment in our history and has returned us to God the Father. The most important factor in being faithful to God is to live as Jesus has taught us. As we keep our gaze upon Jesus each day, we recognize that being faithful to God is not so difficult.
God created you and me not because he wanted “characters” in this world such as what we watch in a video game. No, God created us out of love and we respond by loving him and worshiping him. The love and respect we have for each other, our neighbor, is fitting evidence how much we are faithful to God.
Q: What is the difference between Catholics, Jews and Christians, and why did God make it that way?
A: Here is a good transition from the first question, for understanding the reality of so many diverse religions in this world is a challenging endeavor at that. Let’s keep to the three you listed above.
The Jewish people are also known as God’s Chosen People, for God made his First Covenant with them through Moses. Christians get their name from Jesus Christ himself and have been anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism. The Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ on the foundation of the Apostles, the first bishops.
As Catholics, we respect other religious traditions for each one shares a certain level of truth with the Catholic faith. For instance, in the “Prayers of the Faithful” at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday), we pray for members of other faiths, even for those people with little or no faith.
We recognize that from Jesus Christ and to his Apostles, the Catholic Church enjoys the “fullness means of salvation with which he (Jesus) has willed, correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church) In a pluralistic (diverse) society where some people assert that truth is relative and not certain (remember Pontius Pilate?) we must be ready to stand strong for what we believe.
Q: Why are bells rung during parts of the Mass?
A: Many of our parish churches acknowledge certain moments in the “Liturgy of the Eucharist” through the ringing of bells. These may include the consecration (epiclesis), elevation and reception by the celebrant. Each part of the ritual centers on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The ringing of bells draws our undivided attention to who we have before us at the altar: Jesus Christ.
The “ringing of bells” at the consecration is considered a liturgical option and is left to the discretion of the pastor. Did you know that this tradition of the “ringing of the bells” is nearly 900 years old? A ringing of a bell informed people the very moment when the act of Transubstantiation, or the changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurred. Other times bells have been rung include at the beginning of Mass (the liturgical procession), during the singing of the Gloria and at the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy).
The Catholic faith is rich in tradition, much of which is evidenced through the various practices we have at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The next time at Mass perhaps it would be helpful to identify the many rituals we have within our Catholic liturgical treasury. Each one of these points to the most important reality: Jesus Christ remains with us always.
May these first days of “Summer Vacation” be ones of great blessing to you and your family.
To “Ask the Bishop,” write 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.