EVADING THE ISSUE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 CORINTHIANS 15, 35-37, 42-49; LUKE 8:4-15 ]
In the first reading, some people were asking St Paul, “How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?” St Paul’s answer was clear. “They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that. It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: 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.”
St Paul considers such questions stupid because the answer is obvious. The resurrected body is not exactly the same as our body on earth. We will not have the same features, the same body or the same face as when we were on earth. It is the transformation of a seed into a seedling, and then to a full-grown tree. There is continuity between the seed and the tree, yet both are almost indistinguishable. So too, the resurrected body has some connection with this earthly body. However, because the Spirit transfigures it, we will be so transformed like that of the Risen Lord. This explains why not all the disciples could see the Risen Lord and those who saw Him took some time to recognize His presence.
What remains of the person then, beyond some continuity of the body, is his or her personality, his state of mind, his virtues or vices. Vatican II speaks about the future of creation. “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart. Then, with death overcome, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility. Enduring with charity and its fruits, all that creation which God made on man’s account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity. For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: ‘a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.’ On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.” (Gaudium et spes, 39)
So the real question to ask is not what the nature of the body will look like but what kind of spirit will we have when the body embodies the spirit? Happiness in life is not whether we are tall or short, fat or thin, but whether the interior mind and soul of the person is at peace, full of love, bearing the fruits of the Spirit which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22f) Heaven and hell are not so much places, unless it is the body of the person. Heaven designates a state of life with God, hell designates a person who is closed to others and lives for himself and in himself, alienated from others, a person who excommunicates everyone else from his or her life. Incidentally, not only are the good raised to life on the last day, but the evil as well, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (Jn 5:29) In other words, will the resurrected embody those who are life-giving spirits or those who are only concerned with themselves? Are we just contented to be like Adam, a living soul, or be like the last Adam, a life-giving spirit?
If so, we must now be transformed in our hearts and in our minds. We must not fall into the same mistake of the crowd who did not allow the Word of God to take root in their lives. Jesus said, “The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that they may see but not perceive, listen but not understand.” The religious leaders particularly, rejected the message of Jesus because of pride and fear of losing their status quo. The common people could not understand the message of Jesus because they were preoccupied with their own views of how a Messiah should be. Some were waiting for a political Messiah.
We must therefore be receptive to the Word of God. Only then, can we follow the psalmist and walk in the presence of God in the light of the living. “In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not fear; what can mortal man do to me? I am bound by the vows I have made you. O God, I will offer you praise for you have rescued my soul from death, you kept my feet from stumbling that I may walk in the presence of God and enjoy the light of the living.” To walk in the light of the Lord requires that the Word of God take flesh in us as Jesus took flesh in His incarnation. Indeed, we must put on Christ.
St Paul wrote to the Colossians giving his instructions. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” Col 3:15f)
So what we need to examine is how responsive we have been to the Word of God that has been graciously given to us in Christ Jesus. What kind of ground are we? Are we like the pathway that heard the Word of God but allowed the devil to come and take it away because we did not pay attention? How often has the Word of God come to us through the scriptures, our friends, personal and societal events in life, but we were deaf to the message and warnings from God! Or perhaps, we are like the rock that fails to deepen the Word of God which we have received. Many of us attend retreats and talks but do not bother to follow up. We do not deepen the relationship with the Lord that was initiated during the retreat or seminar. Many new converts too, after RCIA, stopped forming themselves in the faith. Just like any relationship, faith in God, if not strengthened, will eventually become sterile and die. Then again, most of us are like the thorns. Having received the Word of God with joy and enthusiasm, and even made resolution to have time for prayer, faith sharing and community involvement, lose our zeal and commitment because of other distractions, from career, relationships, financial worries, materialism, temptations of the flesh and the world. So many of us, because of work commitments, including those in ministries, put projects and ministry before our relationship with God, and end up frustrated, tired and burnt out.
How blessed are those who are truly receptive to the Word of God! For beyond mere welcoming the Word, they discipline themselves in deepening their understanding of the Word of God and applying it in their lives. These seeds fell on rich soil, producing crop a hundredfold. “This is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.” Indeed, let us not receive the Word of God in vain. St Paul said, “As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:1f) So let us model ourselves after Christ, the heavenly man who leads us to fullness of life. As we die in Him, we shall rise in Him.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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