Monday, September 2, 2013

Still grappling with our humanity

While almost 2000 years have passed since St. Paul first wrote to explain our theology of death and resurrection to the Church at Thessolonica, we still seem to struggle to accept the most basic of Christian beliefs. In part it seems because we want to run away from our humanity. We want to be something else.

I have to smile when I remember my Eschatology (the study of last things) professor Fr. Carl Peter. A world-renowned theologian he often became agitated at the level of ignorance he would hear preached, at funerals in particular.

The worst offenders were those who talked as if they believed that the deceased person was going to become an angel. Angels are a separate kind of beings. Angels are created angels and humans are created humans. And most importantly each remains what it is. A human cannot become an angel nor an angel become human.

Another common error is the group of people who dismiss the body as bad or meaningless. They talk as if a person dies, their soul goes to heaven, end of story. This half truth may be fine if you are trying to explain the matter to a child, but we adults should understand our faith on an adult level.

What makes humans unique is that we are composite creatures, made up of body and soul. As Christians we believe Christ became incarnate to save not only the soul but the flesh, the body. We bow during mass every time we say these words.

Following on the teaching of St. Paul the Church teaches that there is a separation of body and soul that takes place at death, and the particular judgement. And our bodies, as St. Paul says, "sleep" until the final judgement.

In accord with today's reading we believe that at the final judgement and the return of Jesus Christ,
At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed (Catechism n. 1042)

Genesis tells us that when God created humanity he looked at it and saw that it was not just good but very good. In the end we will not be just very good, but glorified, body and soul. That is the end God wants for every human being.

Today and every day let us keep our eyes fixed on that prize to keep us on the right path.