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First and foremost, welcome, Kristi, to About Catholics! <img decoding=” title=”Smile” />

The questions you asked are common among ones that Christians of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist kind (which includes Baptists) ask of Catholics or accuse Catholics of making up.

It is nice to hear you are in RCIA. I helped out with the RCIA program at my parish one year – it was fun.

Now, to address your questions:

[quote:3udk6f78]1. It was my understanding the Mary was chosen to be the mother of God because she was sin free. My friend said that because she is human, she cannot be sin free. Did I misunderstand what the speaker said? [/quote:3udk6f78]

The particular Bible verse that your friend is referring to is found in Romans 3:23 where it says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word “all” in the Greek does not mean “absolutely every single person” but is more of a generalized word. It is like when we say, “They say eating McDonald’s is bad for you” or “Come on, everyone is doing it.” Who is they? Who is everyone? It is clearly not a specific group of people and obviously [b:3udk6f78]not[/b:3udk6f78] everyone else is doing it. It is just a general term and is used that way in other parts of the Bible. The “all” there simply means “a great number.”

No, you did not misunderstand the speaker, that is what Catholics believe. We believe that Mary was chosen by God to be the ark of the new covenant (i.e. to carry Jesus) and she was chosen because she was sinless. God, having a plan in place for the salvation of mankind, had a special place for Mary and had preserved her from sin because she freely complied with God’s request.

There is much biblical support for this. The only gospel that goes into much detail about it is Luke. The whole story is found in Luke 1:5-45, but for our purposes we will just jump right into the meat of the story and that is when the angel Gabriel comes to announce to Mary God’s plan.

It starts at Luke 1:28 when Gabriel says, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Now, right there is a tip off that this is something pretty special. In order to be in God’s favor one must be pretty darn pure and not in any state of sin and have much faith.

In fact, even Mary is startled by this as the passage continues in Luke 1:29 saying, “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” Even Mary was alarmed at this. She was greatly troubled at what was said because no angel in history had ever appeared to someone like that. How could anyone have found so much favor with God? Apparently God had a plan! <img decoding=” title=”Smile” /> Gabriel continued saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” There we have more support that Mary is sinless – this must be important since Gabriel says it again.

Then the story continues on with Gabriel talking to Mary about how she will conceive a son. We get to the part where Mary is obedient to God thus showing how faith filled and sinless she is in complying with a seemingly impossible task in Luke 1:38, “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.'”

At the end of the story, in Luke 1:41-42, there is more recognition of Mary’s holiness: “…Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'” Reason would tell us that the one that is the most blessed must be without sin.

Here is an analogy that might help. In the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant was not a shabby wood container, not was it rusted metal or unpolished gold – no, in fact, it was one of the most beautiful containers ever built and it was built for God. It was to hold the covenant (the tablets of the Ten Commandments I believe) between the Israelites and God and was shiny, bright and beautiful and without a blemish. That was the old covenant. Jesus is the new covenant and the same goes for this time – he would need an “ark” that is without blemish and perfect which is the only thing fitting for God.

And last, but not least, God is the one that preserved her from sin to fit into his master plan. She was not sinless on her own merits, but she was preserved by God because she was part of the plan for the redemption and salvation of the world. Simply because one Bible verse says “all have sinned” does not limit God to not preserving one person for his master plan, nor does it make the Bible and the Catholic Church conflict. The verse in Romans must be taken in its context of time and the reason it was written and to whom it was written. Each Bible verse is not going to go into theological detail of any possible exception or whatnot. The Bible must be taken in context, not in isolated verses scattered throughout.

There is more information about Mary on our website located here: http://www.aboutcatholics.com/viewpage.php?story=1008

Now, onto your next question:
[quote:3udk6f78]Why is Jesus depicted still nailed to the cross in the Catholic church?[/quote:3udk6f78]

Hoepfully this one will not take as long to answer. <img decoding=” title=”Smile” />

Catholics use the crucifix (Jesus still nailed to the cross as opposed to an empty cross) because it is a reminder of the pain and suffering Jesus went through to pay the price for our redemption and salvation. We do not deny his resurrection – if we did we would not make such a big deal out of Easter.

We do it to remember Jesus and the awesome price he paid for our sins. it is a reminder of God’s love for us and how far he is willing to go for us. He loves us so much that he is willing to become human, undergo tremendous humility, pain and suffering and death, even death on a cross just to give us the chance to spend eternity with him.

I think a crucifix is a much greater symbol of our faith than an empty cross exactly for this reason.

Well, I hope this cleared some things up for you. Please continue to ask as many questions as you’d like and join in any discussion on this forum. Also, if anything was unclear in my response please let me know. I or any of the other forum members will be happy to clarify. <img decoding=” title=”Very Happy” />