Answers to your questions about our faith
Q: Did Jesus have a last name?
Good question! The use of a last (family) name, as we know it today, has been common only for the last 500 years or so. In the time of Jesus, 2000 years ago, most people didn't have a last name the way we know it today. If they did it was linked to their hometown or their father's first name. In the bible, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth" (Mk 16:6), "Jesus, son of David" (Mt 9:27), "Jesus, the son of Joseph" (Jn 6:42) so one of these could have been used as his usual last name, but we really don't know for sure.
Q: Why doesn't God use his power to do more miracles in the world today?
Thank you for this question. It is one that many people ask. The answer depends on how we define the word "miracle". If we understand a miracle as something spectacular and sensational, like a magic show, then it is clear that God does not perform miracles like these very often.
But if we see a miracle as being a "work of power", like it is often described in the Gospels, then the presence of miracles can be easier to see in our daily lives. We should remember that Jesus refused to work miracles just to convince unbelievers. Instead, his miracles are tied to the faith of those receiving them. The more faith they have, the greater the work of power from God.
Those who only look for the sensational, or magic, from God will not likely see it. But those who look with the eyes of faith will see God's power in their lives. God's works of power are active in the world, but we need to use our faith to see it and appreciate it.
Q: Is there a 'Beatitudes' for our times?
Nothing beats the original Beatitudes taught by Jesus. But many people have tried to imitate this great teaching using their own words. Here is one for our time written a few years ago by Bishop Francis Xavier van Thuan.
Blessed are those who know how to smile at themselves, they will never run out of chances to be happy;
Blessed are those who distinguish the mountain from the molehill, they will avoid many annoyances;
Blessed are those who know how to listen and keep silence, they will learn many new things;
Blessed are those who are attentive to others’ requests, they will be able to share many joys;
Blessed are those who are attentive to simple things and calm in the face of important things, they will live long;
Blessed are those who know the value of a smile and avoid using disrespectful words, their paths will be full of light;
Blessed those who despite appearances, know how to generously account for the attitudes of others, they will be considered pure of heart;
Blessed are those who know how to reflect before acting and to pray before thinking, they will avoid nonsense;
Especially blessed are those who know how to see God in every person they meet, because they will find true light and peace.
(Francis Xavier van Thuan, 2013)
Q: What happens to us after we die?
This is big question which some people find terrifying. I will try to answer it as simply as possible.
Those fortunate enough to have been revived by doctors after having no vital signs often report experiences of seeing an indescribably beautiful light and feelings of intense peace before being brought back to life. We know by our faith that after death we will meet Jesus who will judge us with mercy according to how we have lived our life. So what will Jesus say to us and what will he be looking for? St. John of the Cross puts it this way: "At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on our love." (Dichos 64)
In the gospels, Jesus asks us to love in two ways: We are to love God with all our strength and love our neighbour as ourselves. By following these two commands Jesus promises us that we will live a life worth living. Our relationship with God will be strong and so will our connection with others. Our love will be like the sunshine: it will shine on everyone.
Like St. John of the Cross, the saints did not fear death because they understood the true purpose of their life and lived it to the best of their ability. They knew they would be judged on how powerfully they had loved, and so they loved powerfully.