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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Having Washed Off the Ashes, Now What?


Yesterday those who went to mass were told by the priest or deacon as he marked their foreheads with ashes, “for dust you are and unto dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)  Anyone who is not Catholic might consider this a terrible pronouncement of the uselessness of this life.
However, there is the day after Ash Wednesday when all of us begin to focus on the day we will all rise again in our bodies, transformed from that dust to a newness made for eternity without death.    

So BUCK UP, people!  As Catholics we live in hope, not despair and gloom, knowing that this life indeed does have a purpose---to prepare us for the next.  Yes, we die, but we know that Christ conquered Death and we will rise again when he returns.

One could ask why would we need a body, why isn’t our soul enough at that point?  The Catechism of Trent says,

“….as the soul is immortal, and has, as part of man, a natural propensity to be united to the body, its perpetual separation from it must be considered contrary to nature.  But as that which is contrary to nature, and offers violence to her laws, cannot be permanent, it appears congruous that the soul should be reunited to the body; and, of course, that the body should rise again.” 

The Catechism continues,

“…the soul should be reunited to the body, in order, as the partner of her crimes, or the companion of her virtues, to become a sharer in her punishments or her rewards.”

 I interpret that to mean your body is a party to all the things you do which are either righteous or evil and the body too must stand in judgment at the end of time. 

The most vivid picture of what that day will be like can be found in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

6) It is only just that God will repay with suffering those who make you suffer 7) and grant relief to you who are suffering, and to us as well.  This will take place when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.

8) He will come in blazing fire to inflict punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  9) They will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, excluded from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power  10) on that Day when he comes to be glorified by his holy ones and to be adored by all believers, among whom you will be present since you believed the testimony we offered to you.

The Catechism says,
“..when reanimated, they shall all, without distinction of good and bad, be invested with immortality.  This admirable restoration of nature is the result of the glorious victory of Christ over death; as it is written, ‘He shall cast death down headlong for ever;’ (Isaiah 25:8) and ‘O Death! I will be thy death;’ words which the Apostle thus explains, ‘and the enemy death shall be destroyed last.’ 
There is a peculiar congruity in the superiority of the merits of Christ, by which the power of death is overthrown, ……….it is consonant to the divine justice, that the good enjoy endless felicity; whilst the wicked, condemned to everlasting torments, ‘shall seek death, and shall not find it; shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them. (Rev. 9:6)  Immortality therefore will be common to the good and to the bad.”

I expect anyone reading this would necessarily want to be in the company of those judged to be among the good.  What will happen to us at that time?  We will be rewarded with four “qualities” that will distinguish us and endow us with abilities we do not enjoy in this life.

These qualities are, Impassibility, which will put us, according to the Catechism, “beyond reach of pain or inconvenience of any sort.  Neither cold nor the glowing intensity of heat can affect them.  The bodies of the damned, though incorruptible, shall not be impassible.”

The second quality is Brightness, by which the Catechism says, “the bodies of the saints shall shine like the sun; according to the words of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: ‘The just shall shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.’  An example of this Brightness is shown to us in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

The third quality is Agility which will allow us “the capability of moving with the utmost facility and celerity, wherever the soul pleases.” 

And the last quality we will enjoy is Subtility, “a quality which subjects the body to the absolute dominion of the soul, and to an entire obedience to her control:  as we infer from these words of the Apostle; ‘It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.’ (1 Cor. 15:44)

In other words, nothing material, such as a wall will prevent our movement because our body will do whatever our soul directs it to do.

These things have been revealed to us so we can look forward to the most amazing gifts imaginable, as the Catechism tells us,
“which God will bestow on his faithful servants after the resurrection, now proposed as rewards; [we] must find in the reflection the strongest inducement to lead virtuous and holy lives.  On the other hand, nothing will have greater effect in subduing the passions, and withdrawing souls from sin, than frequently to remind the sinner of the miseries and torments with which the justice of God will visit the reprobate, who, on the last day, shall rise to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:29

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