2Mc 7:1-2,9-14; 2Thes 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38
I was struck as I watched the video of my father’s funeral some months ago, seeing the coffin being lowered slowly into the grave as the family and friends offered prayers for him. I seriously asked myself then how authentic was my faith in the resurrection of the dead. I believe but, in the face of the death of a loved one, I sensed that I could believe more. I begged the Lord then for the grace to really believe in this powerful article of our faith.
We have prayed the Creed so many times, professing numerous times that we believe in the resurrection of the dead. But do we ever pause to ask ourselves if we really believe in the resurrection of the dead? In other words, does this belief impact our lives in a deep way?
The unbelieving Sadducees tried to ridicule the idea of any resurrection by presenting the story of the woman who had seven husbands in a row and still died childless. They ended by asking Jesus, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus replied by asserting that the resurrection experience completely transforms us and our relationships with one another. In the resurrection, we will not even have unions as we have them in this life, “Those who are deemed worthy to attain the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” We are also transformed through the resurrection experience, “They can no longer die, for they are like angels” (LK 20:27-38).
If the resurrection completely transforms us and our relationships with others, shouldn’t our faith in the resurrection of the dead also transform us and the way that we live our lives today. More than an article of faith to be believed in and publicly professed, faith in the resurrection of the dead must be evident in the way that we live our lives today.
There are five sure signs that we truly believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Firstly, we never lose hope in this life. Our hope is not in anything that this world may offer us or what we may achieve or attain. It is a life-giving hope that is based solely on what God did for us in raising Jesus from the dead, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Pet 1:3).
Because of this living hope from Christ’s resurrection, we never give up on anything that the love of God inspires in us. We do not give up in our prayer life, our life of service, our constant struggle with sin, our loved ones, our ongoing conversion, and our witness to the truths of Christ Jesus. We do not give in to discouragement in any form or live in fear and anxiety because we know that suffering, sin, pain, defeat, loss, etc., do not and cannot have the final word.
Secondly, we love others as our brothers and sisters in Christ. As children of the resurrection, we have conviction in the words of Jesus: “God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” We thus love all persons – living and dead – for Christ’s sake. This is why we make sacrifices and pray for the dead who are being purified in the loving flames of Purgatory. We do not ignore and forget them as if they are already saints in heaven!
We also reach out to those who are living now even if they do not appreciate or return our love. We show our love for them in acts of charity because we know that God will surely reward us for the smallest things that we do out of love for Him, “Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42).
Thirdly, we strive to obey all of God’s laws and commandments. The Maccabean brothers were ready to be tortured and killed for not eating pork because it was prohibited by God’s law, “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Filled with faith in the resurrection, they boldly told their torturers, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for His laws that we are dying” (2Mac 7:2,9).
We show that we believe in the resurrection of the dead when we too are ready to die rather than transgress the revealed will of God for us. We strive to obey Him all the time, no matter the cost or the consequences of our fidelity to Him. We are not afraid to stand alone in the face of a wicked world that violates and disdains God’s commandments. Our compromises with sin and our choice to disobey Him show that we lack a deep belief in the resurrection of the dead.
Fourthly, we are ready to suffer for the fullness of the Christian faith that we have received from Christ Himself through His Catholic Church. St. Paul prayed that the Lord will direct the hearts of the Christians in Thessalonica to the “love of God and to the endurance of Christ” (2Thes 3:5). Faith in the resurrection of the dead also invites us to be steadfast in what we believe by sharing in the very endurance of the crucified Christ in the face of sufferings.
We show our faith in the resurrection of the dead by our readiness to suffer for what we believe. We suffer temptations from demons, mockeries, and insults from people outside the Church who hate the faith, scandals from those within the Church, and persecution from those who hate us for what we believe.
Lastly, we make reverent use of our bodies in the love and service of God and others. St. Paul connects Christian sexual ethics with the belief in the resurrection of the dead, “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. And God raised the Lord and He will also raise us by His power” (1Cor 6:13-14).
Belief in the resurrection of the dead implies that we cannot use our bodies for immorality as if they belonged to us and not to the Lord. He has possessed our bodies from the moment of baptism as the temple of His Spirit and He intends to raise them up glorious at the resurrection if only we pattern our lives on His own holiness, “Everyone who has this hope based on Him keeps himself pure just as He himself is pure.”(1Jn 3:3) We cannot claim to really believe in the resurrection of the dead if we are giving ourselves to any of the many forms of impurity in our world today.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we believe in the resurrection of the dead because of the crucified and risen Christ. He is the “resurrection and the life,” (Jn 11:25) the one who alone reveals the resurrection to us and makes it present to us. We believe in this resurrection by His grace alone.
Holy Communion is always an encounter with this risen Christ in the form of bread and wine. In Him, there is always a resurrection, a new life, a new beginning, a better life, a life out of darkness into light. If we never waiver in our faith in the resurrection of the dead, the grace of each Eucharist can and should transform us and our ways of life completely.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash