September 6, 2017

We Shall Not Fall Asleep, But Be Changed

Resurrection of the Flesh

Father Lance Harlow

As we mature, we gain experience in enduring the reality of changing events. The change in our own person is called aging. In society, change is called progress. In architecture, it is called development. However we categorize the experience of movement from one thing to another and its emotional effect upon us, St. Paul puts into blunt perspective that the minor changes in the human condition pale before the one fundamental life changing event, which is called death.

He states in his letter to the Corinthians: “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality” (1 Cor 15:51-53).

St. Paul is speaking about the second coming of Christ at which time He will execute the final judgment. The bodies of the dead will be raised to join their souls forever in Heaven or in hell. Now that’s a change!

It also puts life into perspective because it orients our human purpose toward a goal — that is, eternal life. Everything that we do in this world should have Heaven as its fundamental hope. My body will experience the changes of getting old, but I have hope it will one day become glorified in Heaven.

Social fashions and customs will change around me. But have hope. St. John tells us that in Heaven, there will be no fashion anxiety. Everybody will be clothed in the purity brought about by Jesus’ death and resurrection. “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7:9). Now that’s quite a dress code!

Buildings will rise and fall. But have hope. One day I shall dwell in the new heavens and the new Earth, which will not be defined by dimensionality, but by the glory of God: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the Earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there” (Rev 21:22-26). Now that’s a developer’s masterpiece!

There is no limit to the personal, social and environmental changes during our lifetime, which could lead to a cynicism for those whose horizons are limited to this world only. But for those whose fundamental orientation is the Kingdom of Heaven, the accumulation of life’s events, through which these changes must occur, is nothing but a prelude to the fundamental and eternal stability of the glory and beauty of Heaven which “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, [nor] has entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

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