This weekend we are invited to observe St. Paul as he visits the Corinthians. Paul, in his customary zeal, does whatever he can to make the point that what he is saying about Jesus is the Gospel truth. He wants to emphasize the point that the “Good News” he is sharing is not something that he dreamed up, but it was something he received from Jesus Himself. I can just imagine the obstacles that Paul had to overcome to help the Corinthians understand the idea of the resurrection of the body.
The Corinthians were not so much denying the idea of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it was the idea of the resurrection of the body. In Paul’s time there were a couple of predominant belief systems in place. For those with a Jewish background, they were influenced by the Sadducees who denied that there was any type of an afterlife; they denied the immortality of the body or the soul. The common Old Testament belief was that when a person died, they went to a place named Sheol, often translated wrongly as hell. A place without distinction, a kind of gray existence, a nothingness, an emptiness, a void. A gray land beneath the earth, cut off from light, cut off from men. A shadowy existence.
The Psalms are replete with a series of bleak ideas that suggest what may happen after death:
“For in death there is no remembrance of me.”
“In Sheol who can give me praise? The dead do not praise the LORD.”
And from Ecclesiastes:
“Who shall give praise to the Most High from the Grave?”
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.”
A grim and depressing picture of what happens to one when they die.
And there were also those from the Greek background, who greatly feared death. For the most part, the Greeks did believe in the immortality of the soul, but only through the complete dissolution of the body. They had an ancient proverb – “The body is a tomb.” Some felt the soul was “shackled” to a corpse. So, as we can see, the idea of the resurrection of the body was a novel idea to this group of new Christians. Paul insisted that if one denies the resurrection of the body, then one denies the resurrection of Christ; they do not embrace the truth of the Christian message and the reality of the Christian life.
So Paul had his work cut out for him, but he persevered. He had quite a reputation as a dynamic speaker, and it was pretty evident that whenever he had something to say, people listened. Some would go to hear what he had to say and I am sure some would go out of curiosity. But, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe that most would leave touched by his words. It’s reassuring to me that we know the Scriptures are the Living Word of God and that Paul’s words transcend time. So let us take the words of St. Paul to heart that through the Gospel “We are being saved” – this means us – today!
We can take great comfort in this Year of Faith, that if we turn to LORD and do His Will, that on that day when the LORD calls us home, it is our founded hope that we will become a member of the Communion of Saints “triumphant”. And let it be our prayer, that we will also follow the example of our beloved Bishop D’Arcy, who was just recently called home, and who showed all of us that he lived the words of today’s Gospel from St. Luke – “Be not afraid”!
God Bless You