CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

How many sacraments are there, and what are their names?
The Church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

Why do we need sacraments in the first place?
We need sacraments in order to outgrow our petty human life and to become like Jesus through Jesus: children of God in freedom and glory.

In Baptism the fallen children of men become cherished children of God; through Confirmation the weak become strong, committed Christians; through Penance the guilty are reconciled; through the Eucharist the hungry become bread for others; through Matrimony and Holy Orders individualists become servants of love; through the Anointing of the Sick the despairing become people of confidence. The sacrament in all the sacraments is Christ himself. In him we men, lost in selfishness, grow and mature into the true life that has no end.

Why is faith in Jesus Christ not enough? Why does God give us the sacraments, too?
We can and should come to God with all our senses, not just with the intellect. That is why God gives himself to us in earthly signs especially in bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ.

People saw Jesus, heard him, could touch him and thereby experience salvation and healing in body and soul. The sensible signs of the sacraments show this same signature of God, who desires to address the whole man, not just his head.

Is there some inner logic that unites the sacraments with each other?
All sacraments are an encounter with Christ, who is him self the original sacrament.

There are sacraments of initiation, which introduce the recipient into the faith: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. There are sacraments of healing: Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. And there are sacraments of communion and mission: Matrimony and Holy Orders.

Baptism joins us with Christ. Confirmation gives us his Spirit. The Eucharist unites us with him. Confession reconciles us with Christ. Through the Anointing of the Sick, Christ heals, strengthens, and consoles. In the sacrament of Matrimony, Christ promises his love in our love and his fidelity in our fidelity. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests have the privilege of forgiving sins and celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Why do the sacraments belong to the Church? Why cannot anyone use them however he wants?
Sacraments are Christ’s gift to his Church. It is her duty to administer them and to protect them from misuse.

Jesus entrusted his words and signs to specific men, namely, the apostles, who were to hand them on; he did not hand them over to an anonymous crowd. Today we would say: He did not post his inheritance on the Internet for free access but rather registered it under a domain name. Sacraments exist for the Church and through the Church. They are for her, because the Body of Christ, which is the Church, is established, nourished, and perfected through the sacraments. They exist through her, because the sacraments are the power of Christ’s Body, for example in confession, where Christ forgives our sins through the priest.

Which sacraments can be received only once in a lifetime?
Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. These sacraments imprint an indelible mark on the soul of the Christian. Baptism and Confirmation make him once and for all a child of God and Christlike. Holy Orders similarly leaves an imprint on a Christian man.

Just as someone always is and remains a child of his parents (and not just “sometimes” or “a little bit”), so also through Baptism and Confirmation one becomes forever a child of God, Christlike, and a member of his Church. Similarly, Holy Orders is not a “job” that a man does until retirement; rather, it is an irrevocable charism (gift of grace). Because God is faithful, the effect of these sacraments is maintained forever for the Christian – as receptivity to God’s call, as a vocation, and as protection. Consequently these sacraments cannot be repeated.

Why is faith a prerequisite for the sacraments?
Sacraments are not magic. A sacrament can be effective only if one understands and accepts it in faith. Sacraments not only presuppose faith, they also strengthen it and give expression to it.

Jesus commissioned the apostles first to make people disciples through their preaching, in other words, to awaken their faith and only then to baptize them. There are two things, therefore, that we receive from the Church: faith and the sacraments. Even today someone becomes a Christian, not through a mere ritual or by being listed in a register, but rather through acceptance of the true faith. We receive the true faith from the Church. She vouches for it. Because the Church’s faith is expressed in the liturgy, no sacramental ritual can be changed or manipulated at the discretion of an individual minister or a congregation.

If a sacrament is administered by someone who is unworthy, does it fail to have its effect?
No. The sacraments are effective on the basis of the sacramental action that is carried out (ex opereoperato), in other words, independently of the moral conduct or spiritual outlook of the minister. It is enough for him to intend to do what the Church does. By all means, ministers of the sacraments ought to live an exemplary life. But the sacraments take effect, not because of the holiness of their ministers, but rather because Christ himself is at work in them. In any case, he respects our freedom when we receive the sacraments. That is why they have a positive effect only if we rely on Christ.

What is Baptism?
Baptism is the way out of the kingdom of death into life, the gateway to the Church, and the beginning of a lasting communion with God.

Baptism is the foundational sacrament and the prerequisite for all other sacraments. It unites us with Jesus Christ, incorporates us into his redemptive death on the Cross, thereby freeing us from the power of Original Sin and all personal sins, and causes us to rise with him to a life without end. Since Baptism is a covenant with God, the individual must say Yes to it. In the baptism of children, the parents confess the Faith on behalf of the children.

How is Baptism administered?
The classical form of administering Baptism is the threefold immersion of the candidate in the water. Usually, however, water is poured three times over the head of the candidate, while the minister of the sacrament speaks the words, “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Water symbolizes cleansing and new life, which was already expressed in the baptism of repentance performed by John the Baptist. The Baptism that is administered with water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is more than a sign of conversion and repentance; it is new life in Christ. That is why the ceremony also includes the signs of anointing, the white garment, and the baptismal candle.

Who can be baptized, and what is required of a candidate?
Any person who is not yet baptized can be baptized. The only prerequisite for Baptism is faith, which must be professed publicly at the Baptism. A person who turns to Christianity is not just changing a worldview. He travels a path of learning (the catechumenate), in which he becomes a new man through personal conversion, but especially through the gift of Baptism. He is now a living member of the Body of Christ.

Why does the Church adhere to the practice of infant Baptism?
From antiquity the Church has practiced infant Baptism. There is one reason for this: before we decide on God, God has decided on us. Baptism is therefore a grace, an undeserved gift of God, who accepts us unconditionally. Believing parents who want what is best for their child want Baptism also, in which the child is freed from the influence of original sin and the power of death.

Infant Baptism presupposes that Christian parents will raise the baptized child in the faith. It is an injustice to deprive the child of Baptism out of a mistaken liberality. One cannot deprive a child of love so that he can later decide on love for himself; so too it would be an injustice if believing parents were to deprive their child of God’s grace in Baptism. Just as every person is born with the ability to speak yet must learn a language, so too every person is born with the capacity to believe but must become acquainted with the faith. At any rate, Baptism can never be imposed on anyone.
If someone has received Baptism as a little child, he must “ratify” it later in life – this means he must say Yes to it, so that it becomes fruitful.

Who can administer Baptism?
Normally a bishop, a priest, or a deacon administers the sacrament of Baptism. In an emergency, any Christian, indeed anyone, can baptize by pouring water over the head of the recipient and pronouncing the baptismal formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism is so important that even a non-Christian can administer it. In doing so, however, he must have the intention of doing what the Church does when she baptizes.

Is Baptism in fact the only way to salvation?
For all those who have received the Gospel and have heard that Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” (Jn 14:6) Baptism is the only way to God and salvation. At the same time, however, it is true that Christ died for all mankind. Therefore all men who have had no opportunity to learn about Christ and the faith but seek God sincerely and live according to their conscience also find salvation (the so-called Baptism of desire).

God has made salvation dependent on the sacraments. Therefore the Church must tirelessly offer them to mankind. To give up her missionary work would be a betrayal of God’s commission. God himself, however, is not dependent on his sacraments. In places where the Church does not exist or has had no success – whether by her own fault or for other reasons – God himself paves for the people other ways to salvation in Christ.

What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is the sacrament that completes Baptism; in it the gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon us. Anyone who freely decides to live a life as God’s child and asks for God’s Spirit under the signs of the imposition of hands and anointing with chrism receives the strength to witness to God’s love and might in word and deed. He is now a full-fledged, responsible member of the Catholic Church.

When a coach sends a soccer player onto the playing field, he puts his hand on his shoulder and gives him final instructions. We can understand Confirmation in a similar way. A hand is placed upon us. We step out onto the field of life. Through the Holy Spirit we know what we have to do and we have been given the power to do it. He has motivated us. His mission resounds in our ears. We sense his help. We will not betray his trust or disappoint him; we will win the game for him. We just have to want to do it and listen to him.

What does Sacred Scripture say about the sacrament of Confirmation?
In the Old Testament, the People of God expected the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Messiah. Jesus lived his life in a special Spirit of love and of perfect unity with his Father in heaven. This Spirit of Jesus was the “Holy Spirit” for whom the people of Israel longed; this was the same Spirit whom Jesus promised to his disciples, the same Spirit who descended upon the disciples fifty days after Easter, on the feast of Pentecost. And it is again this same Holy Spirit of Jesus who descends upon everyone who receives the sacrament of Confirmation.

In the Acts of the Apostles, which were written a few decades after the death of Jesus, we see Peter and John traveling about to confirm new Christians by imposing hands on those who previously “had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” so that their hearts might be filled with the Holy Spirit.


What happens in Confirmation?

In Confirmation the soul of a baptized Christian is imprinted with a permanent seal that can be received only once and marks this individual forever as a Christian. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the strength from above in which this individual puts the grace of his Baptism into practice through his life and acts as a “witness” for Christ.

To be confirmed means to make a “covenant” with God. The confirmand says, “Yes, I believe in you, my God; give me your Holy Spirit, so that I might belong entirely to you and never be separated from you and may witness to you throughout my whole life, body and soul, in my words and deeds, on good days and bad.” And God says, “Yes, I believe in you, too, my child and I will give you my Spirit, my very self. I will belong entirely to you. I will never separate myself from you, in this life or eternally in the next. I will be in your body and your soul, in your words and deeds. Even if you forget me, I will still be there on good days and bad.”

Who can be confirmed, and what is required of a candidate for Confirmation?
Any Catholic Christian who has received the sacrament of Baptism and is in the “state of grace” can be admitted to Confirmation.

To be “in the state of grace” means not to have committed any serious sin (mortal sin). By a serious sin a person separates himself from God and can be reconciled with God only by making a good confession. A (young) Christian who is preparing for Confirmation finds himself in one of the most important phases of his life. He will do everything possible to grasp the faith with his heart and his understanding; he will pray alone and with others for the Holy Spirit; he will reconcile himself in every way with himself, with the people around him, and with God. Confession is part of this, since it brings one closer to God even if one has not committed a mortal sin.

Who may confirm?
The Sacrament of Confirmation is normally administered by the bishop. For weighty reasons when necessary, the bishop can also delegate a priest to do it. In danger of death, any priest can administer Confirmation.

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CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

How will the world come to an end?
At the end of time, God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Evil will no longer have any power or attractiveness. The redeemed will stand face to face with God as his friends. Their yearning for peace and justice will be fulfilled. To behold God will be their blessedness. The Triune God will dwell among them and wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, sorrow, lamentation, or trouble.

Why do we say “Amen” to the profession of our faith?
We say Amen “Yes” to the profession of our faith because God appoints us witnesses to the faith. Anyone who says Amen assents freely and gladly to God’s work in creation and redemption.
The Hebrew word amen comes from a family of words that mean both “faith” and “steadfastness, reliability, fidelity.” “He who says amen writes his signature.” (St. Augustine) We can pronounce this unconditional Yes only because Jesus in his death and Resurrection
has proved to be faithful and trustworthy for us. He himself is the human Yes to all God’s promises, just as he is also God’s definitive Yes to us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Why do we believe in the resurrection of the dead?
We believe in the resurrection of the dead because Christ rose from the dead, lives forever, and causes us to share in this eternal life. When someone dies, his body is buried or cremated. Nevertheless, we believe that there is a life after death for that person. In his Resurrection, Jesus showed that he is Lord over death; his word is trustworthy: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (Jn 11:25b)

Why do we believe in the resurrection of the “body”?
In Jesus Christ, God himself took on “flesh” (Incarnation) in order to redeem mankind. The biblical word “flesh” characterizes man in his weakness and mortality. Nevertheless, God does not regard human flesh as something inferior. God does not redeem man’s spirit only; he redeems him entirely, body and soul. God created us with a body (flesh) and a soul. At the end of the world he does not drop the “flesh” like an old toy. On the “Last Day” he will remake all creation and raise us up in the flesh – this means that we will be transformed but still experience ourselves in our element. For Jesus, too, being in the flesh was not just a phase. When the risen Lord showed himself, the disciples saw the wounds on his body.

What happens to us when we die?

In death body and soul are separated. The body decays, while the soul goes to meet God and waits to be reunited with its risen body on the Last Day. How the resurrection will take place is a mystery. An image can help us to accept it: When we look at a tulip bulb we cannot tell into what a marvelously beautiful flower it will develop in the dark earth. Similarly, we know nothing about the future appearance of our new body. Paul is nevertheless certain: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.”

How does Christ help us at our death, if we trust in him?

Christ comes to meet us and leads us into eternal life. “Not death, but God will take me.” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) In view of Jesus’ suffering and death, death itself can become easier. In an act of trust and love for the Father, we can say Yes, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Such an attitude is called “spiritual sacrifice:” the dying person unites himself with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Someone who dies this way, trusting in God and at peace with men, and thus without serious sin, is on the way to communion with the risen Christ. Our dying makes us fall no farther than into his hands. A person who dies does not travel to nowhere but rather goes home into the love of God, who created him.

What is eternal life?
Eternal life begins with Baptism. It continues through death and will have no end. Even when we are simply in love, we want this state of affairs to last forever. “God is love,” says the First Letter of John. (1 Jn 4:16) “Love,” says the First Letter to the Corinthians, “never ends.” (1 Cor 13:8) God is eternal because he is love; and love is everlasting because it is divine. If we are in love, we enter into God’s endless presence.

Will we be brought to judgment after death?

The so-called particular or personal judgment occurs at the moment of death of the individual. The general judgment, which is also called the Last Judgment, occurs on the Last Day, at the end of the world, when the Lord comes again. In dying every man arrives at the moment of truth. Now it is no longer possible to repress or conceal anything; nothing more can be changed. God sees us as we are. We come before his tribunal, where all is made right, for if we are to be in God’s holy presence at all, we must be “right” with him – as right as God wanted us to be when he created us. Perhaps we will still have to undergo a process of purification, or maybe we will be able to fall into God’s arms immediately. But perhaps we will be so full of wickedness, hatred, and denial of everything that we will turn our face away from love forever, away from God. A life without love, however, is nothing but hell.

What is heaven?
Heaven is the endless moment of love. Nothing more separates us from God, whom our soul loves and has sought our whole life long. Together with all the angels and saints we will be able to rejoice forever in and with God. If you have ever observed a couple looking at each other lovingly or seen a baby nursing who looks for his mother’s eyes as though it wanted to store up every smile forever, then you have some inkling of heaven. To be able to see God face to face – that is like one, single, never-ending moment of love.

What is purgatory?

Purgatory, often imagined as a place, is actually a condition. Someone who dies in God’s grace (and therefore at peace with God and men) but who still needs purification before he can see God face to face is in purgatory. When Peter had betrayed Jesus, the Lord turned around and looked at Peter: “And Peter went out and wept bitterly” a feeling like being in purgatory. Just such a purgatory probably awaits most of us at the moment of our death: the Lord looks at us full of love and we experience burning shame and painful remorse over our wicked or “merely” unloving behavior. Only after this purifying pain will we be capable of meeting his loving gaze in untroubled heavenly joy.


Can we help the departed who are in the condition of purgatory?

Yes, since all those who are baptized into Christ form one communion and are united with one another, the living can also help the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory. When a man is dead, he can do nothing more for himself. The time of active probation is past. But we can do something for the faithful departed in purgatory. Our love extends into the afterlife. Through our fasting, prayers, and good works, but especially through the celebration of Holy
Eucharist, we can obtain grace for the departed.

What is hell?
Hell is the condition of everlasting separation from God, the absolute absence of love. Someone who consciously and with full consent dies in serious sin, without repenting, and refuses God’s merciful, forgiving love forever, excludes himself from communion with God and the saints. We do not know whether anyone at the moment of death can look absolute Love in the face and still say No. But our freedom makes that decision possible. Jesus warns us again and again not to separate ourselves definitively from him by shutting our hearts against the need of his brothers and sisters: “Depart from me, you cursed … . As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

But if God is love, how can there be a hell?
God does not damn men. Man himself is the one who refuses God’s merciful love and voluntarily deprives himself of (eternal) life by excluding himself from communion with God. God yearns for communion even with the worst sinner; he wants everyone to convert and be saved. Yet God created man to be free and respects his decisions. Even God cannot compel love. As a lover he is “powerless” when someone chooses hell instead of heaven.

What is the Last Judgment?
The Last Judgment will take place at the end of the world, at the second coming of Christ. “All who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” (Jn 5:29) When Christ comes again in glory, his full splendor will shine upon us. The truth will come plainly to light: our thoughts, our deeds, our relationship to God and to other men – nothing will remain hidden. We will recognize the ultimate meaning of creation, comprehend God’s marvelous ways for the sake of our salvation, and finally receive also an answer to the question of why evil can be so powerful if God is in fact the Almighty. The Last Judgment is also our day in court. Here it is decided whether we will rise to eternal life or be separated from God forever. Toward those who have chosen life, God will act creatively once again. In a “new body” (see 2 Cor 5) they will live forever in God’s glory and praise him with body and soul.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Why was Christ transfigured on the mountain?
The Father wanted to reveal the divine glory of his Son even during Jesus’ earthly life. Christ’s Transfiguration was meant to help the disciples later to understand his death and Resurrection.

Three Gospels relate how Jesus, on the mountaintop, begins to shine (is “transfigured”) before the eyes of his disciples. The voice of his heavenly Father calls Jesus his “beloved Son,” to whom they are supposed to listen. Peter would like to “make three booths” and capture the moment. Jesus, however, is on the way that leads to suffering. The vision of glory is only to strengthen his disciples.

Did Jesus know that he would die when he entered Jerusalem?
Yes. Three times Jesus had predicted his suffering and death before consciously and voluntarily (Lk 9:51) going to the place of his Passion and his resurrection.

Why did Jesus choose the date of the Jewish feast of Passover for his death and Resurrection?
Jesus chose the Passover feast of his people Israel as a symbol for what was to happen through his death and Resurrection. As the people Israel were freed from slavery to Egypt, so Christ frees us from the slavery of sin and the power of death.

The Passover was the feast celebrating the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jesus went to Jerusalem in order to free us in an even deeper way. He celebrated the Paschal feast with his disciples.

During this feast, he made himself the sacrificial Lamb. “For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7), so as to establish once and for all the definitive reconciliation between God and mankind.

Why was a man of peace like Jesus condemned to death on a Cross?
Jesus posed a decisive question to his contemporaries: Either he was acting with divine authority, or else he was an impostor, a blasphemer, and a violator of the Law and who had to be called to account.

In many respects Jesus was an unprecedented challenge to the traditional Judaism of his time. He forgave sins, which God alone can do; he acted as though the Sabbath law were not absolute; he was suspected of blasphemy and brought upon himself the accusation that he was a false prophet. All these were crimes punishable under the Law by death.

Are the Jews guilty of Jesus’ death?
No one can assign collective guilt for the death of Jesus to the Jews. Instead, the Church professes with certainty that all sinners share in the guilt for Jesus’ death.

The aged prophet Simeon foresaw that Jesus would become “a sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34b). And in fact Jesus was resolutely rejected by the Jewish authorities, but among the Pharisees, for example, there were also secret followers of Jesus, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Various Roman and Jewish persons and institutions (Caiaphas, Judas, the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pontius Pilate) took part in Jesus’ trial, and only God knows their guilt as individuals. The idea that all Jews of that time or living today are guilty of Jesus’ death is irrational and biblically untenable.

Did God will the death of his only Son?
The violent death of Jesus did not come about through tragic external circumstances. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). So that we children of sin and death might have life, the Father in heaven “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21). The magnitude of the sacrifice that God the Father asked of his Son, corresponded to the magnitude of Christ’s obedience: “And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). On both sides, God’s love for men proved itself to the very end on the Cross.

In order to save us from death, God embarked on a dangerous mission: He introduced a “medicine of immortality” (St. Ignatius of Antioch) into our world of death – his Son Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son were inseparable in this mission, willing and yearning to take the utmost upon themselves out of love for man. God willed to make an exchange so as to save us forever. He wanted to give us his eternal life, so that we might experience his joy, and wanted to suffer our death, our despair, our abandonment, our death, so as to share with us in everything. So as to love us to the end and beyond. Christ’s death is the will of the Father but not his final word. Since Christ died for us, we can exchange our death for his life.

What happened at the Last Supper?
Jesus washed the feet of his apostles on the evening before his death; he instituted the Eucharist and founded the priesthood of the New Covenant.

Jesus showed his consummate love in three ways: He washed his disciples’ feet and showed that he is among us as one who serves (cf. Lk 22:27). He symbolically anticipated his redeeming Passion by speaking these words over the gifts of bread and wine: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19ff). In this way he instituted the Holy Eucharist. When Jesus commanded the apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24b), he made them priests of the New Covenant.

On the Mount of Olives on the night before his death, did Jesus really experience fear of death?
Since Jesus was true man, he truly experienced fear of death on the Mount of Olives.

With the same human strength that we all possess, Jesus had to fight in order to consent interiorly to the Father’s will that he give his life for the life of the world. Abandoned in his darkest hour by everyone, even his friends, Jesus managed after a struggle to say Yes. “My Father, if this [cup] cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Why did Jesus have to redeem us on the Cross, of all places?
The Cross on which Jesus, although innocent, was cruelly executed is the place of utmost degradation and abandonment. Christ, our Redeemer, chose the Cross so as to bear the guilt of the world and to suffer the pain of the world. So he brought the world back home to God by his perfect love.

God could not show his love more forcibly than by allowing himself in the person of the Son to be nailed to the Cross for us.

Crucifixion was the most shameful and most horrible method of execution in antiquity. It was forbidden to crucify Roman citizens, whatever crimes they were guilty of. Thereby God entered into the most abysmal sufferings of mankind. Since then, no one can say “God does not know what I’m suffering.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Did Jesus work miracles, or are they just pious tales?
Jesus really worked miracles, and so did the apostles. The New Testament authors refer to real incidents.

Even the oldest sources tell of numerous miracles, even the raising of the dead, as a confirmation of Jesus’ preaching: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28). The miracles took place in public; some of the persons involved were known by name, for instance, blind Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52) or Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8:14-15). There were also miracles that in those Jewish circles were considered shocking and outrageous (for example, the cure of a crippled man on the Sabbath, the cure of lepers). Nevertheless they were not disputed by contemporary Judaism.

But why did Jesus work miracles?
The miracles that Jesus worked were signs that the kingdom of God was beginning. They expressed his love for mankind and reaffirmed his mission.

Jesus’ miracles were not self-aggrandizing displays of magic. He was filled with the power of God’s healing love. Through his miracles he showed that he is the Messiah and that the kingdom of God begins in him. Thus it became possible to experience the dawn of the new world: he freed people from hunger (Jn 6:5-15), injustice (Lk 19:8), sickness, and death (Mt 11:5). By driving out demons, he began his victorious advance against the “ruler of this world” (meaning Satan; see Jn 12:31). Nevertheless, Jesus did not remove all misfortune and evil from the world. He directed his attention principally to freeing man from the slavery of sin. His central concern was faith, which he also elicited through miracles.

Why did Jesus call apostles?
Jesus had a large circle of disciples around him, both men and women. From this circle he selected twelve men whom he called apostles (Lk 6:12-16). The apostles were specially trained by him and entrusted with various commissions: “He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal” (Lk 9:2). Jesus took only these twelve apostles with him to the Last Supper, where he gave them the command, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19b).

The apostles became witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection and guarantors of the truth about him. They continued Jesus’ mission after his death. They chose successors for their ministry: the bishops. To this day, the successors of the apostles exercise the authority conferred by Jesus: They govern and teach and celebrate the liturgy. The cohesiveness of the apostles became the foundation for the unity of the Church (apostolic succession). Preeminent once again among the Twelve was Peter, on whom Jesus bestowed special authority: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). From Peter’s special role among the apostles developed the papal ministry.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Why is Mary a Virgin?
God willed that Jesus Christ should have a true human mother but only God himself as his Father, because he wanted to make a new beginning that could be credited to him alone and not to earthly forces.

Mary’s virginity is not some outdated mythological notion but rather fundamental to the life of Jesus. He was born of a woman but had no human father. Jesus Christ is a new beginning in the world that has been instituted from on high. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary asks the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (= do not sleep with a man, Lk 1:34); the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:35). Although the Church from the earliest days was mocked on account of her belief in Mary’s virginity, she has always believed that her virginity is real and not merely symbolic.

Did Mary have other children besides Jesus?
No. Jesus is the only son of Mary in the physical sense.
Even in the early Church, Mary’s perpetual virginity was assumed, which rules out the possibility of Jesus having brothers and sisters from the same mother. In Aramaic, Jesus’ mother tongue, there is only one word for sibling and cousins. When the Gospels speak about the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus (for instance, in Mk 3:31-35), they are referring to Jesus’ close relatives.

Isn’t it improper to call Mary the “Mother” of God?
No. Anyone who calls Mary the Mother of God thereby professes that her Son is God.

As early Christianity was debating who Jesus was, the title Theotokos (“God-bearer”) became the hallmark for the orthodox interpretation of Sacred Scripture: Mary did not give birth merely to a man who then after his birth “became” God; rather, even in her womb her child is the true Son of God. This debate is not about Mary in the first place; rather, it is again the question of whether Jesus is true man and true God at the same time.