RCIA CLASS 9
OF THE BODY AND LIFE EVERLASTING
I. Christianity teaches that, as Jesus was raised from the dead, so we will be raised again, with glorified bodies.
A. Jesus rose with a risen body that was, at the same time, different from His mortal body and glorified, but also recognizable.
1. Thus, when
people first saw the risen Christ, they sometimes did not recognize
Him. But then He was recognized when He spoke to them, appealing
to their faith. See, e.g., Luke 24:1-35; John 20:11-18, 21:1-14.
2. Jesus was able to go from place to place at will, pass through barriers, and appear and disappear at will. See, e.g., Mark 16;14; Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19, 26. However, He was also tangible and ate with the disciples as He had done before His death. See, e.g., Luke 24:41-43, John 20:17, 27.
B. Likewise, the early Christians declared that, as Christ rose from the dead, we also in His image will rise again from the dead.
1. The Old Testament
had already spoken of the Resurrection in a few passages, and hinted
at it in others. See, e.g., Dan. 12:2-4; 2 Macc. 7:11, 14; Wis.
3:1-9; Is. 66:14-24; Ps. 49:13-15, 73:24..
2. Jesus then
more plainly revealed the resurrection of the dead, resolving the dispute
in favor of the Pharisees against the Saducees. See Matt. 22:23-33;
Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40; John 5:25-29, 6:41, 52, 58 (especially
associating the resurrection with the Eucharist.)
3. The early
Christians, and especially St. Paul, would emphasize the resurrection
of the dead, in opposition to many who believed either in no resurrection,
or in only the soul being immortal. See, e.g., Acts 13:30-32,
23:6-10; 1 Cor. 15:12-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:13.
C. The fact that our bodies will be raised again has important implications for how we live now.
1. We should
treat the human body, neither as the final end, nor as irrelevant, but
rather as a means given to us now of glorifying God. As St. Paul
says, "Glorify God in your body." 1 Cor. 6:20; cf. Rom. 12:1.
2. Thus, rightful
joys of this life can be accepted, as Jesus accepted them, but must
not become the final ends. Rather, they should be seen as gifts
from God. When pleasures become necessary for happiness, they
are our masters. See 1 Cor. 6:12.
3. Good health
is a good, so that we may glorify God better, but illness can also be
seen as a way of joining with Jesus through suffering and detachment
from earthly desires. All suffering, in fact, can be joined to
Jesus. See Col. 1:24-25.
4. We show forth
our loyalty by what we do in the body. Thus, a married couple
shows forth love for each other, the rightful use of sexuality.
And, in providing for the needs of others, and in other ways, acting
charitable, courageously, etc. Faith is not merely abstract, but
is lived through the body. See James 1:27.
5. Likewise, in worshiping God, we show forth our praise partially in physical means, such as singing, the spoken word, kneeling, and symbols.
- The sacramental
system works through the senses (e.g., the words of each sacrament,
the signs of water, oil, etc., the taste of bread and wine) to bring
grace from heaven to earth, and our minds to heaven.
- Liturgy uses
motions, gestures, words, even the scent of incense, to bring out a
sense of the holy.
art, architecture, music, literature, etc. uses the senses to glorify
God and give a sense of greater things.
physical things such as nature or even good things we make glorify God
and ennoble ourselves if we are willing. See, e.g., Ps. 19:1,
29; Dan. 3:59-90; John Paul II, On the Dignity of Human Labor
9 (1981); Vatican II Council, Gaudium
et Spes 34, 38 (1965).
D. The rightful attitude towards the human body can be expressed in a number of symbols.
Paul compares the human body to a tent that we dwell in now during our
journey, which will one day become a glorious temple showing forth the
splendor of God. 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:1-4.
2. Jesus and
St. Paul also use the image of this body as like a seed that will one
day die, but then, if planted rightly flourish into a tree, bearing
fruit forever. See John 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:37, 42-44
3. St. Gregory the Great and St. Francis of Assisi both compared the body to a donkey on which we travel now, which is stubborn, but necessary, and which teaches us humility and how to ride. The body will one day die, but then become a glorious horse that will bring us to everlasting life. As Peter Kreeft points out, C.S. Lewis drew a similar analogy
4. St. Gregory the Great also called the body the harp of the soul, that is meant to become a harp of the Holy Spirit. We now have a very limited instrument, upon which we learn to play music to God. One day it will become glorious, and enable us to express our love to God in fullness.
II. After this life is over, there will be a judgment of our lives, and at the end of all things on earth, a final judgment of all of human history.
A. "Death puts
an end to human life as the time open to either accepting
or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament
speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with
Christ in His second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will
be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and
faith." Catechism of the Catholic Church 1021.
B. At death, there is an immediate result, or judgment, which is the same as will be the case for the final judgment, for or against God. Especially toward the end of His public ministry, Jesus continually spoke of this time of final decision. See, e.g., Matt. 24:45-51, 25:14-30; Luke 14:15-23, 19:11-27; see also Rev. 20:15,21:8. This life leading to a choice between an eternity with or against God is the ultimate adventure.
1. Getting to heaven and thereby glorifying God is the final goal of human life, toward which all else should be subjected. All prices are worth paying for this glory and joy. Jesus spoke of this choice in such parables as the pearl of great price and the treasure in a field. See, e.g., Matt. 14:44-46.
who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live
for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they
see Him as He is, face to face. . . . The elect live in Christ, but
they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. .
. . In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill
God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already
they reign with Christ; with Him they shall reign for ever and ever."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1023, 1025, 1029.
2. God is willing to forgive sins, but He gives us the choice about whether to accept that forgiveness or not. If one is not willing to live in the love of God, if one does not accept the light God gives that choice its terrible effect and allows one to live in the prison and darkness of evil forever.
- Jesus did emphasize
the Father's willingness to forgive, see, e.g., Luke 15, but
also emphasized that that offer must be accepted in time, or the decision
against Him will be final. See, e.g., Matt. 24:45-25:46.
- "We cannot
be united with God unless we freely choose to love Him. But we
cannot love God if we sin gravely against Him, against our neighbor,
or against ourselves: He who does not love remains in death. . . . To
die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love
means remaining separated from Him for ever by our own free choice.
This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and
the blessed is called hell." Catechism of the Catholic Church
1033; see also Catechism 1034-1037.
3. Because nothing impure can be in heaven, see, e.g., Rev. 21:27, Ps. 15, 24:3-6, nor would anyone in heaven want to be impure, those who die in a state of grace, i.e., friendship with God, but are still attached to sin or not fully in love with God must be purified.
- Jesus said that
anyone who would be His disciple must pick up his cross and follow Him,
see Matt. 10:38, 16:24; Mark 10:34; purgatory allows those who were
with God, but weakly, now to suffer with Christ. St. Paul speaks
of those who are saved, but only as through fire. See 1 Cor. 3:15;
see also 2 Macc. 12:46.
who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified,
are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they
undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter
the joy of heaven. . . . The Church gives the name Purgatory to this
final purification of the elect. . . . From the beginning the Church
has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for
them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they
may attain the beatific vision of God." Catechism of
the Catholic Church 1030-1032.
C. There will be
a final judgment in which all nations, and all of human history is summarized.
See Matt. 25:31-46. All things will be revealed, and the meaning
of every event and every person's life will at last be known.
See Matt. 10:26; Rev. 20:11-21:8.
D. We do not know what heaven is like, for "eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor has it entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Cor. 2:9. However, some images help us to sense a desire for heaven.
1. Heaven can
be compared to a kingdom, in which the saints are rulers, given even
cities to govern. See, e.g., Matt. 5:3,10; Luke 19:11-27; Wis.
2. Heaven is
like a colossal, indeed infinite city of gold, jewels, and light towards
which the best of every nation comes and brings its greatest treasures.
See Rev. 21:9-27; Ps. 87.
3. Heaven is
like glorious fields, in which nature now is purified as a new creation,
with all her beauty, but no longer corruption, conflict or pain.
See Rev. 22:1-5; Is. 65:17-25; Amos 9:13-15; Ps. 23:1-3.
4. Heaven is
like the celebration of a wedding feast, but going on forever.
See Matt. 22:1; Luke 14:15-24; Ps. 23:5.
5. Heaven is
a society of people who are now at their best, having been transformed
by Christ into glory. See 1 John 3:3.
6. Heaven is
place in which all actions of this earth are glorified, sanctified and
celebrated forever. See Vatican II Council, Gaudium
et Spes 39.
7. The letters to seven churches at the beginning of the Book of Revelation give some images of the reward: a restored garden of Eden, now beyond the possibility of evil; conquest over death and decay; receiving one's real identity and calling; joining with God in the rule of nations; being purified and glorified by Jesus before the angels; being forever in the glorious temple and city of the heavenly Jerusalem; and being forever in the company of Jesus in His kingdom. See Rev. 2:1-3:22.