Monday, September 19, 2016

What can we expect?

Pope Francis said today (September 16, 2016) that Christians must dismiss the false notion that there is no resurrection of the dead, the Newsmax website reports.

During his mass today in Vatican City, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said questions on what happens after death can lead to people not understanding Christianity's ‘logic of the future.’

Believers will rise again in body and soul like Jesus Christ did following His Crucifixion, that logic follows.

‘A spiritualistic piety, a nuanced piety is much easier; but to enter into the logic of the flesh of Christ, this is difficult. And this is the logic of the day after tomorrow. We will resurrect like the risen Christ, with our own flesh,’ the pontiff said.

And does it take a word from the pope like this to convince Catholic Christians of the truth of their faith? Many people of all Christian ‘traditions’ have a nebulous belief in the afterlife, sometimes indistinguishable from the near unbelief of their non-Christian neighbors. Ask an average Christian on the street what they believe happens to you after you die, and what answer do you get? ‘I dunno. Go to heaven or hell, I guess.’ Maybe the answer wouldn’t be quite so Simpsonistic, but I wonder.

Orthodoxy, aka ‘the Church,’ has made the resurrection of Christ the central theme of every Sunday service. We who belong to this Church cannot escape it, unless we’re dead in our tracks and more than tone deaf. ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.’ We may not sing this Easter hymn every Sunday, but there are hymns of the resurrection, eight different ones to be exact, that are sung all year round in every Sunday liturgy. How is it, then, that many of us are, like our non-Orthodox neighbors, unable to grasp the truth of the bodily resurrection of the dead that we confess every time we recite the Symbol of Nicaea?

My eldest son Jacob, a seminary graduate and very astute theologian, says it’s because ‘cradle Orthodox’ do not get any systematic instruction, just what Sunday School may have taught them when they were little, and then, whatever they glean from the Divine Liturgy as adults. When catechism classes are held for potential converts, an announcement usually goes out, inviting veteran Orthodox believers to join in and take a refresher course. I wonder how many go? I think Orthodoxy is plagued by the same malady that afflicts other Christians—we act as though we are all Baptists: ‘once saved, always saved’—and it doesn’t seem to bother us, until we get into some kind of trouble, that we pay little actual attention to knowing God in Christ, and knowing what His plan of salvation is.

Back to the pope. He has become famous for saying and doing things that are for people who are unable to see what is right in front of them, hidden in plain sight. I can see him, metaphorically, as the thief in the night wielding his crowbar to break into the homes of his sleeping church members, making as much noise as he can in breaking in, so as to wake up some of them before the Real Thief in the Night comes, the One who cannot be resisted because by the time He arrives our last chance will have slipped away. I think Pope Francis is putting the Church, not just the Roman Catholics, in a dry run of what will occur when the Lord Himself returns, yes, at a time we do not expect, and only those who have stayed awake will be… I don’t know how to say it, but if we sleep, what can we expect when we awake?

No comments: