Without peeking at the answer below, try to guess what year this statement was made by a Catholic bishop: “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.” Most people of every culture seem to accept that there is some sort of spiritual existence in the afterlife, and it is usually thought to be a good thing for everyone. We do have an instinct in our human nature that there must be something after this life, because our hearts desire eternal fulfillment, and we recoil at the thought and experience of death.
Recently in his Sunday homily, Bishop Paprocki gave a teaching on the resurrection of the body. He made the point that when we say every Sunday in the Creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” we are speaking about our bodies – not the body of Jesus. We profess belief in his resurrection earlier in the Creed. Contrary to some popular beliefs, we do not become angels after we die. Angels and human beings are very different types of creation, although we do share some similar qualities.
What happens after we die is in one way a very mysterious process, but also fairly straight-forward according to the teachings of Jesus. When we die, we will be judged in an individual judgment, face to face with God. After this moment, our soul will proceed immediately to the blessedness of heaven (maybe after a purification), or to everlasting damnation (CCC 1022). When the world ends and Jesus comes back a second time in glory, the bodies of all human beings will be reunited with their souls. Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). God forbid that any of us would miss out on the blessedness of heaven! However, Jesus made it sound like a very real possibility that even people who claim to follow him can be separated from him forever. In the bible, nobody talks about hell more than Jesus.
When we receive a challenging teaching from Jesus or the Church, it could be tempting to despair or feel totally inadequate to follow the teaching. But God instead invites us to a greater trust in him. He never asks us to do something that is impossible. If we make the conscious decision to follow God’s laws in our lives to the best of our abilities, God will shower graces upon us and help us in many ways to become holier and more authentically human people.
I hope this is far enough down to not give the answer away from my initial guessing game – the bishop and doctor of the Church St. Augustine said this quote sometime during his ministry between 396 and 430. I thought it was interesting that the same quote could have been said by a bishop today, because some people scoff at the idea of our bodies coming back to life, in an even more “alive” way than before! It has always been the case that some people try to find every sort of pleasure and happiness in this life, which we all know will not last forever. There is always some new “fountain of youth” that is promising to make us look younger for longer. But behind this obsession with living forever is the knowledge that we were made for more than this life. God made our hearts in such a way that they will not be fulfilled until we have found him.
Easter Sunday is a taste of heaven on earth. Maybe today we are thinking about loved ones who have died and we hope to see again someday. Sometimes our personal lives and the liturgical calendar line up in interesting ways. Wherever we are in life – in the best year ever or the year that we can’t wait to end – Jesus is risen! The problems that we have in life will not last forever, and Jesus wants to live through us on both the good days and the bad days. We at the Cathedral have the privilege of accompanying many people in their spiritual life, on both the best and worst days. Jesus has something to offer to everybody. If we live with Christ in this life, we will also live with him in the next!