Two Questions

I’m currently trying to explain the Catholic faith to a friend who is in seminary (he’s currently a Calvinist). I have run into 2 questions that I am having difficulty answering sufficiently.

  1. The Bible says that no one greater has been born to a woman than St. John the Baptist. How do we explain that in relation to our beliefs about the Blessed Virgin Mary?

  2. We confess our sins and receive absolution…later that day we slip into sin again. How do we justify not going to confession daily or more than once per year? (he says, "you’re saved, you’re not saved, you’re saved, you’re not saved…)

Any help is humbly appreciated.

In His Peace,

I can’t answer question #1 (I’ve asked it myself, to be honest :)) but #2 is easy: venial sins do not sever our relationship with God. We only require reconciliation with God and with the Church when we sin mortally.


Thank you for the answer. A follow-up if I may, how do we know which sins are venial and which are mortal? I know the difference between the two, but always tend to think my sins are a bigger deal than what they seem to be to the priest I am confessing them to. Thanks again.

I’ll take on #1, Brad. :slight_smile:

The Lord’s meaning has to do with the Old Covenant vs. the New, for, in the very next line, He says how “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven (that is, the New Covenant) is greater than him [John].” Mary is part of that New Covenant, and the greatest member of this New Covenant. She is the very image of the Church (per Rev. 12:1-3) and the Ark of the New Covenant itself (per Luke 1:39-56 compared to 2 Sam. 6:2-11). Thus, Jesus is not saying that John is greater than Mary or any other NT saint, but that he is the greatest and most sinless saint of the Old Covenant - the last prophet of the Old Covenant, and their culmination: the New Elijiah.

Welcome to the Forum!

i’m going to ignore question 1 for the time being, since pre-birth exegisis is not my strong suit

We are NOT “saved.” No living Christian is “saved.” We are “saved” ONE time when we die and are judged and accepted by God. We go to confession, certainly we almost immediately can fall prey to sin again, and most of the time this will be venial sin. As a venial sin is not mortal, we SHOULD confess it (though Communion removes venial sins), but it is not sufficient to remove us from a state of sanctifying grace. Should one fall into a state of MORTAL sin, however, we should confess as soon as possible, because mortal sin is lethal to our souls. The pattern is: Confession (state of sanctifying grace, no sin), venial sins (state of sanctifying grace, minor sins, cleaned by Communion), mortal sin (no sanctifying grace, MUST get to confession ASAP), confession (and so on and so forth.

Wow, thank you. That is a great response. Let me state it back simply…St. John the Baptist is the greatest of the Old Covenant prophets (namely because he came to proclaim Christ and the New Covenant). But that does not exclude him from the New Covenant at all, it just makes him the greatest among the OC. Does that sum it up sufficiently? Thanks again.


ahem, Mary is the NEW Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of the NEW covenant is the church (of which Mary is Queen, of course). It’s a minor semantical difference, but has significant meaning when one looks at the traditional background of the passover sacrifice.

You should ask him for the exact scripture he is quoting and what translation he is using. In the NAB Matthew 11:11 is:
"Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
You simply cannot lift the first half of the verse out and take it in isolation. It clearly was not meant to say that John the Baptist was greater than Jesus. Ask your friend to read the entire verse and not take it out of context. Here is the footnote from the NAB regarding this verse:

8 [11] John’s preeminent greatness lies in his function of announcing the imminence of the kingdom (Matthew 3:1). But to be in the kingdom is so great a privilege that the least who has it is greater than the Baptist.

Regarding confession, I personally try to go as often as I can. If I could go weekly I would. During the middle ages important people had their own confessors just so they could take advantage of the Sacrament when necessary.

I agree with all that has been written here. :slight_smile:

May I also add that St John the Baptist **and **Our Lady are great and important saints of the Church. In the Eastern Catholic Church there are numerous high feast days in honor of them both!

Point taken, Paul. :slight_smile:

Short and simple?

  1. When one looks critically at the teachings of Mary, they are not to uplift Mary, but to better define Christ.

But I would ask the further questions, which teachings about Mary are you specifically refering to? There may be some serious misunderstandings and things that Catholics don’t actually teach, but everything we do teach can be directly related to Christ.

For Example:

Queen of Heaven - Christ is King, and in the Davidic kingdom, the mother of the King is the Queen. This defines who Christ is because Mary could never be queen without Christ first being King.

Excellent point!
It cracks me up when fundamentalist born-agains insist they are saved, yet they commit just as many sins as you and I…but because they gave “lip service” to the Lord they have been cleared of any future responsibility in sin (for the rest of their lives???). Yeah right, gimme a break.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 7:21

Well, he doesn’t agree with really anything Catholics believe about Mary other than the virgin birth. Some examples:

  • Perpetual virgin
  • Assumption
  • Coronation
  • That she was/is without sin
  • That the declaration at the foot of the cross to St. John was more than just saying, “Take care of my mom.” Of course, with his “brethren” still alive, he’s not really sure why this was necessary.

He has conceded that we do not worship Mary, although he think we are asking for trouble by praying to her.

Please do remember, though, that there are people who would use the term “I am saved” but in no way shape or form believe they cannot lose their salvation but must “walk the walk”. Even those who carry the “Baptist” title.

It is usually a gross caricature and very few actually believe that one can be saved and pay “lip service” and still be saved. Rather they would believe that the person was never saved to begin with, which opens up another can of worms:p

God Bless,

Another thing about question #2

We are saved by God’s grace alone. When we sin, we reject that grace. The sacrament of penance is one way He restores His saving grace to us.

Scripture speaks of salvation as a process - not an event. It has past present and future components . See James Akin’s Salvation Controversy

Your friend is lookng at it like salvation is a one time event or even a thing - it is not. It is a process.

She had to be. Christ is the Perpetual and Perfect Passover Sacrifice. That demands that there was an Ark of the Covenant in which He was housed. That Ark is MARY. no one can ever be in the Ark except the high priest and the sacrifice. Christ was both. If Mary did not remain a virgin, then this casts serious doubts on the death of Christ being the perfect Paschal Sacrifice

Anyone who is blameless is assumed. If we can believe that Elijah was assumed, why is it so hard to believe that Mary (the mother of God, BLESSED amongst all women on earth) was?

In judaism, the mother of the king is queen. If mary is not queen, then Christ was not King. This teaching serves only to magnify the glory of the Lord. Why object?

Again, the Ark of the Covenant had to be PURE substances to house the sacrificial lamb. In the same way, Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, had to be absolutely pure to bear the Body of Christ inside her.

Bretheren is covered on this forum all the time. It does not mean “BROTHER” in the literal sense. Even today, however, the distinction is not clear. I have a good friend I talk to all the time, and I call him my brother.

My friend,

I agree with you completely. My friend just will not allow himself to view Mary as a Catholic understands her. If it is not explicitly in Scripture, he just doesn’t accept it. Of course, he easily accepts the Trinity and some other widely held beliefs. He just thinks we Catholics added to Scripture rather than the fact that the Church came to a fuller understanding of something. It’s frustrating…thanks for the response.

I can’t help but wonder, was John the Baptist already dead at this point? If so, it would seem to go with the following logic.

  1. Greater love hath no man than to give up her life for one another.
  2. I give you this commandment, to love one another as I have loved you.
  3. John the Baptist is the first person to die for Christ.

Ergo, no one greater is born from woman than John.

almost everything I said above IS scriptural. Your friend needs to study the OT and traditional ancient judaism if he doesn’t believe EXACTLY as I stated above. Honestly, I don’t see why it’s so hard for protestants to put on their RATIONAL thinking cap and look beyond the hype that their preachers sell on little sampler platters. Really, do we want to draw the line of our faith at something that is second rate to the fulness of the catholic church, which emboddies ALL the teachings of God through history?

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