Resurrection as the foundation of hope for our life in God
Fr Jacek Molka
Does death end human life? Is there any afterlife? Or perhaps something or Someone waits for us? Since the very beginning people have asked such questions. Therefore, it is worth trying to answer them during the joyous celebrations of the Lord’s Resurrection.
From the biblical point of view, the issue of death and afterlife is expressed by pictures, which we cannot easily understand in our times. Therefore, we should examine these issues again since as St Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians, ‘Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known’ (13:12). Dying itself is something completely natural and inscribed in the endless line of the life that has begun. Furthermore, death is connected with our sin (cf. Romans 5:12) and in God’s vision of the world it is simply an enemy of man (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26). In fact, death should not exist at all since from the beginning it opposes our overwhelming longing for everlasting life. This desire has accompanies all existing civilisations so far. Some of them imagined this life as being born again and they buried their dead in the embryo positions so that they could come again to the world in an easy way. The Greek had their Hades and the Jews had their Sheol. And what does Christianity offer?
‘The appointed time’ in Christ (Galatians 4:4)
Christianity is to offer the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the promised Messiah and the Son of Man who shall come in glory to judge peoples at the end of times although we do not know exactly when it will happen (for instance cf. Mark 13:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:1 and 2 Thessalonians 2,1ff). He himself says ‘I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (John 11: 25-26).
After Christ came death is not something inevitable and a senseless end of man. Thanks to his resurrection death does not mean a heart piercing tragedy of eternal parting but it is an ordinary return to the Father’s house, the desire to return to the source of life (see Philippians 1: 23 or 2 Corinthians 5: 8). Almost three years ago the Servant of God John Paul II expressed that conviction and the whole world witnessed his death. It is actually the person of Jesus and the very event of his being raised to life by God that has become the foundation of our Christian hope for eternity. In his encyclical ‘Spe salvi’ Benedict XVI writes about it in a true and wonderful way. Whereas the whole New Testament, and especially the descriptions of the appearances of the Risen Lord in the Gospels, explicitly shows that no one else but God is the future of man. ‘Since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist’ St Paul said in the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:28). One can say that eternal life in God has already begun in us since we see him in Christ (cf. John 12:45) and through Christ we were as if raised up to new life and have a place with him in heaven (cf. Ephesians 2:4-7). It is worth stressing that in next weeks ‘Niedziela’ is going to discuss the theme of eternal life and what is after death (e.g. the issue of heaven, hell and purgatory as well as God’s judgement) within the framework of the cycle ‘I believe in eternal life’. So I am going to limit to the issue of the resurrection of the dead. This conviction constitutes the foundation of our faith. ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless’ (1 Corinthians 15:13f.)
Resurrection of the dead
What will our resurrected bodies look like? St Paul suggests that resurrection is similar to the seed sown in the soil. ‘The thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised in imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful, when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:42). In fact, it is not easy to explain in a simple way the issue of resurrection of the dead after our biological death. ‘Naturally, the resurrected body need not consist of the same material elements like the body we have now. We know well that although the substances that make up our bodies are exchanged completely with time, but we are still the same people. Therefore, we can obviously share the view that it is enough if our renewed ‘self’ is united with the matter so that the same man becomes. One should not understand that as a promise that we will have some ideal bodies. We rather mean a new form of life. Speaking that the body will also be set free we want to say that it will exist beyond any destruction. It will be free from the ordinary conditions of the matter; it will not be dependent on space and time, lengthiness and gravitation, which we are subject to. The narratives about the Resurrected Christ want to express this truth’ (Ferdinand Krenzer, ‘Taka jest nasza wiara’ [Original title: Morgen wird man wieder glauben], p. 345). Will it be so? We shall know that after we pass to the other side of life.
Care for life
Currently, we seem to care for our lives a lot (e.g. promoting healthy food or sports). But we limit this dimension to the present life. Additionally, because of the bad influence of many computer games where heroes have a few lives at their disposal the roles of death and the afterlife are undermined. Therefore, during the Eastertide it is worth reflecting deeply on our existence in the context of Jesus’ promises of eternal life. It may be worthy reflecting on the objectives we have in our lives. We cannot exclude that many of them will occur to be meaningless. Our sincere conversation with God in the light of his words included in the Bible can let us have a completely different view on our lives. Since looking at ourselves from God’s perspective will show us a diametrically different picture of our present lives and their continuation in God. What is waiting for us? Let St Paul answer this question, ‘The things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).