Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The resurrection of the body"

“Cindy” emailed me a question for our site. She wanted me to post the following exchange which dovetails the conclusion of my homily on Easter Sunday:

Hello Father Greg!

I have a question that I thought I knew the answer to growing up as a Catholic. I always believed that when a person dies, their soul immediately goes to be judged and I thought that by their judgment, they go on to heaven, purgatory or hell. But in the past few years, I have heard that we "await the resurrection of the body in death." Does this mean that when we die, our soul does not go immediately, but awaits the final day when we are all lifted up and judged?

Thank you for your time,

Hi Cindy,

Thanks for your question. The Church teaches what you have always believed: "Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven - through a purification (purgatory) or immediately - or immediate and everlasting damnation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1022). So, each one of us will be judged immediately when we die. This is called the Particular Judgment.

But, Scripture and Tradition is also clear about a General Judgment. This will come at the end of the world when Christ comes for the second time. We say this in the Creed: "He will come to judge the living and the dead". In the General Judgment, everyone will be judged immediately and will either go to Heaven or Hell forever (see Matthew 25):

1) The living will either go to Heaven or Hell
2) Those in Purgatory will go to Heaven
3) Those already in Heaven or Hell will remain there forever (i.e., their particular judgment remains in tact forever).

We also profess belief in the resurrection of the body; this gets to the second part of your question. Just prior to the General (or Last or Final) Judgment, Christ will raise the bodies of those who have died. The Catechism explains:

"In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection (#997)."All the dead will rise, 'those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment'" (998).

As you can see, both of your points are correct! Our bodies separate from our souls at death and either go to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. Then, they are reunited with our bodies forever either in Heaven or in Hell.

Hope this helps…

In Christ,

Fr Greg


At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Often, Jesus’ disciples did not initially recognize the risen Lord. Did he look different? Did it require something else to recognize His presence rather than His mere image or were they in shock so couldn’t recognize who was before them? I wonder about this because, if Jesus looked the same, and they were challenged to believe He was before them in the risen form, I can understand why it is so hard for many to see the risen body of Christ in the Eucharist.

At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Now I'm really confused.

1) The living will either go to Heaven or Hell
2) Those in Purgatory will go to Heaven
3) Those already in Heaven or Hell will remain there forever (i.e., their particular judgment remains in tact forever).

So basically, based on the statement in number one, Final Judgment wipes out mankind? The world still exists but it exists without people? People live in either Heaven or Hell, but not on earth? Wow. Somehow I just can't imagine God wiping out His own creation – way to abstract a concept for my brain to comprehend.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went an AA meeting last night for someone who was celebrating a year of sobriety. She read something I hadn’t heard in a while, and I thought I’d share it-

"I hate a Higher Power. I hate anyone who has a Program. To all who come into contact with me, I wish you suffering. I wish you death. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the disease of alcoholism. I am cunning, baffling and powerful. That’s me! I have killed millions, and am pleased. I love to catch you with the element of surprise. I love pretending I am your friend and lover. I have given you comfort, have I not? Wasn’t I there when you were lonely? When you wanted to die, didn’t you call me? Wasn’t I always there?

I love it when I make you so numb you can neither hurt or cry- you can’t feel anything at all. This is true Glory. I give you instant gratification. I’ve always been there for you.

When things were going right in you life, you invited me in. You said you didn’t deserve these good things. I was the only one who would agree with you. Together we were able to destroy all good things in your life. All I asked of you was log term suffering.

People don’t take me seriously. They take strokes seriously, heart attacks seriously, even diabetes seriously. Fools that they are, they don’t know that without my help these things would not be made possible.

I am such a hated disease, and yet I do not come uninvited. You choose to have me. So many have chosen me over reality, peace and serenity.

More than you hate me, I hate all of you who have a 12 step program. Your program, your meetings, your Higher Power, all weaken me and don’t allow me to function in the I am accustomed to.

Now I must lie here quietly. You don’t see me, but I am growing bigger tha ever. When you quietly allow me to control you. I live. When you live I CAN’T. But I am here…and until we meet again—if we meet again—I wish you continued death and suffering."

Yes, this is a reading about the disease of alcoholism and you may not believe it applies to you and/or those you know, but as I was listening, I couldn’t help but think that it really and truly applies to all of us- in whatever out trials, struggles, diseases, etc. may be. Sustitute the word "alcoholism" for "Satan" and it's obvious (at least to me) how he works.


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