“At the End of the World as We Know It: The Resurrection of the Body and the Forgiveness of Sins”

“I BELIEVE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS”

200. How are sins remitted?

The first and chief sacrament for the forgiveness of sins is Baptism. For those sins committed after Baptism, Christ instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance through which a baptized person is reconciled with God and with the Church.

  • This part of the Creed (about the forgiveness of sins) is placed near the parts about (1) the Holy Spirit, (2) the Church, and (3) the Communion of Saints. Why? When Our Lord gave the divine power to forgive sins to the Apostles, it was through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22-23).  So, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit acting through the Church, in the company of the saints that sins are forgiven in Baptism and Reconciliation.

    • “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

  • Baptism forgives all of our sins, both the stain of original sin and any sins that a person may have committed.  Baptism unites us with Christ, whose death and resurrection makes us new.

  • BUT, while baptism forgives our sins, it does not change our fallen human nature.  We still have a tendency to fall into evil, even when we try not to.  So baptism can’t be the only way to forgive sins!

  • Reconciliation (also called Confession or Penance) is the other sacrament that, in God’s design, forgives any sins committed after baptism.

  • The Unforgiveable? Can anyone think of a sin that cannot be forgiven?  The answer is yes and no.  There is no sin—if the sinner is truly sorry and repentant—that cannot be forgiven.  BUT, any sin—no matter how great or small—cannot be forgiven if the sinner is not sorry.

  • Housekeeping: Just as any house or apartment has a tendency to become dirty and cluttered over time (and needs to be cleaned now and then), our souls need the cleansing that only the sacrament of Penance can achieve.  So, it’s vital for anyone looking to grow spiritually to frequent this great gift given to the Church.

  • Preparing: Just the brief preparation necessary for the sacrament is very helpful.  Like AA says, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  So, knowing that we’ve done wrong and in what areas is very helpful to improving.

201. Why does the Church have the power to forgive sins?

The Church has the mission and the power to forgive sins because Christ himself has conferred it upon her: “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

  • Why go to a priest? Many people have wondered why it’s necessary to confess sins to a priest – why not just confess them directly to God in the intimacy of one’s own prayer.

  • By God’s design: The short answer is that Christ directly gave, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive sins to his apostles.  But this reality also makes sense, considering human nature.

  • Both/And: Christians can and should confess their sins directly to God, ask for forgiveness, and tell God that we are sorry and make firm resolutions to do better.  BUT, we need to remember that EVERY sin (no matter how private it seems) is not only an offense against God, but an offense against the entire Church – the Body of Christ.  Since sin is never a truly private matter, the Church (in the person of the priest) acts in the place of Christ to forgive sins and reconcile sinners to the Mystical Body.

  • A practical note: Frequent use of the sacrament of confession is vital the spiritual life, so it’s also important to seek out a good confessor and to let that confessor get to you over time.  The counsel he offers and his ability to help you will be much greater once a regular relationship is established.  So I encourage all of us to recommend good confessors that we have found to those seeking one.

“I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY”

202. What is the meaning of the term “body” (or “flesh”) and what importance does it have?

The resurrection of the flesh is the literal formulation in the Apostles Creed for the resurrection of the body. The term “flesh” refers to humanity in its state of weakness and mortality. “The flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian). We believe in God the Creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem flesh; and we believe in the resurrection of flesh which is the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.

  • The flesh: The Apostle’s Creed (the shorter version we say in the Rosary and that children first learn) literally says “resurrection of the flesh.”  The actual Latin word used is “carnis,” which literally means meat or flesh.  Think of the word carnal or the Spanish word for meat: “carne.”

  • Why is that important? When we think of the human body, it’s great potential for beauty and dignity usually spring to mind.  But when we think of it as flesh or meat, we’re reminded of our weakness.

  • That’s what’s so amazing! God the Father creates the flesh, God the Son becomes human flesh to redeem us, and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies (makes holy) the flesh so that, once redeemed, it may rise again, even after death!

203. What is meant by the “resurrection of the body”?

This means that the definitive state of man will not be one in which his spiritual soul is separated from his body. Even our mortal bodies will one day come to life again.

  • Immortal souls: The first step is to understand that every human being’s soul is immortal – it does not die with the death of the body, but lives forever either with God in Heaven (often after time of cleansing in Purgatory) or eternally separated from God in Hell.

  • Body and Soul: But we also must believe that—even though the soul is separated from the body at death—this separation is merely temporary.  Just as Christ resurrected from the dead both body and soul, every person who has ever lived will be reunited with his or her earth body.

204. What is the relationship between the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection?

Just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and now lives forever, so he himself will raise everyone on the last day with an incorruptible body: “Those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).

  • In Christ: The resurrection of the dead is always profoundly linked to the person of Christ, who tells us He is “the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn. 11:25).

  • The Incorruptibles: This might make a good Marvel comic book movie, but it’s important to remember that every human body—no matter how disfigured, rotted, or disintegrated—will be risen on the last day (at the end of the world).  An indication of this is in the story of the saints who have died many centuries ago, yet their human bodies have not decayed.  St. Bernadette, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Clare of Assisi, and over 100 others have been dug up and seen to have kept their human bodies intact, even centuries after death.

  • Good and evil: The saints point to the reality of the resurrection of the body, but it is every single person who ever lived that will be resurrected.  Eternal life will be with a body, whether in Paradise with God and the saints, or in the eternal abyss of being cut off from God in Hell.

205. What happens to our body and our soul after death?

After death, which is the separation of the body and the soul, the body becomes corrupt while the soul, which is immortal, goes to meet the judgment of God and awaits its reunion with the body when it will rise transformed at the time of the return of the Lord. How the resurrection of the body will come about exceeds the possibilities of our imagination and understanding.

  • The Unimaginable: Our earthly minds cannot fully understand or image how dead and corrupt bodies can be raised.  Yet, our participation in the Holy Eucharist can help us to contemplate this mystery.

  • Earthly becomes heavenly: In the mystery of the Eucharist, ordinary bread and wine (which are earthly and corruptible), become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ (who is heavenly and incorruptible).

206. What does it mean to die in Christ Jesus?

Dying in Christ Jesus means to die in the state of God’s grace without any mortal sin. A believer in Christ, following his example, is thus able to transform his own death into an act of obedience and love for the Father. “This saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).

  • State of Grace: It is so important to always guard our souls from falling into mortal sin, because this kind of serious sin severs us from God.  Being sorry and confessing our sins and doing penance restores the soul to the state of grace.

  • Death as love: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).  The truly Christian death is an offering to God and for others.

  • Pray for a holy death: The saints have always told us to (1) contemplate our own death, (2) firmly resolve to die a holy death, and (3) ask God for the grace of a holy death and petition the saints to pray for us.

  • Life and death: If we live with Christ in our daily walk, we will be ready to die for him, in whatever manner he calls us to.  It’s important to remember every day to “live like you were dying.”

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