As Catholics we hear quite a bit about the love of God. We are reminded…
Did Jesus always know he was God?
Question: Did Jesus always know he was God, or did that understanding grow gradually in him?
— Barbara Allison, via email
Answer: Theologians generally distinguish different kinds of knowledge in the Lord Jesus. As God, he has divine knowledge that is entirely comprehensive; he knows all things and all possible things. As a man, the Lord Jesus also has a human intellect. How this human intellect interacts with his divine knowledge is mysterious and the object of some debate.
It is most widely held that in terms of his human knowledge, Christ had the beatific vision from the first moment of his conception. From this, he also had infused knowledge wherein he could humanly know the thoughts of others, events and things generally inaccessible to others. He also had in his human knowledge something called experimental (or acquired) knowledge. It is one thing to know the essence of an orange, but to actually savor its taste through his human nature is to experience it humanly. In this sense, Scripture says that Jesus grew in age and grace and wisdom (cf. Lk 2:52).
As to your specific question of whether Jesus always knew he was God, the answer is yes, not simply in his divine knowledge but also in his human knowledge. Some theologians have debated how exactly Jesus knew this and experienced it and how that knowledge may have grown as he grew to manhood.
There comes an interesting moment when Jesus says that he does not know the day or hour of the final judgment. Of this the Catechism says: “By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal” (CCC 474).
So the human knowledge of Christ, while not unlimited, is far more vigorous and comprehensive than that of any other human. Christ surely knew he was God and was in constant union with his Father.
Are thoughts sinful?
Question: In confession, should I confess my thoughts and actions, or just my actions.
— Billy, via email
Answer: We should distinguish thoughts that simply occur to us, and thoughts on which we dwell and accept. We all have the experience where a dumb, unkind or unholy thought simply pops into our mind. At that moment it is not sinful; it is just a temptation that may be coming from the world, the flesh or the devil. Often we can just dismiss it, or if it lingers, resist it. But if there comes a point that we begin to willfully dwell on it or actively fantasize about it, we enter into the realm of the sins of thought that can or should be confessed. We also have other kinds of thoughts and attitudes that are deep seated and can be sinful. For example, we may hold grudges, or indulge envy. Willfully persisting in dissent from Church teaching can also be a way we permit our thoughts to be sinful. All of these sorts of thoughts can and should be confessed, especially if they are serious.
Praying in a group
Question: We are told that there is a special power in praying as a group. But in the Ash Wednesday readings, Jesus seems to say that when we pray, we should go to our room, shut the door and pray alone. So is it better to pray alone or with others?
— Kurt Weber, via email
Answer: Jesus does not mean to exclude group prayers. What he rebukes is spelled out in an earlier verse, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them” (Mt 6:5). In other words the sin to avoid is to seek the praise of men. He then goes on to advise: “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6:6). Thus in a somewhat hyperbolic manner the Lord teaches that we ought to be willing to pray even if no one but God sees us. Our goal is not the esteem of others, but rather, the love of God. So, both group praying and individual praying is valued and good.