February 10 2019 (C) Fifth Sunday of Year. Reflection & Dialogue: (a) Belief in Bodily Resurrection; (b) The call to bear witness to the Gospel

Belief in Bodily Resurrection. In the new evangelization, indeed even outside of this, it is the desire of the Church that the chief doctrines of the faith be explained in conjunction with the Sunday liturgy and the Sunday Scripture readings. These readings provide an opportunity of presenting the doctrines of the faith in connection with present-day questioning or denials, and also with the age-long presentation of the doctrines. Today’s readings present an opportunity of dwelling on the Holy Father’s role today in strengthening the faith and promoting Church unity in conjunction with today’s Gospel reading. However, it seems better to concentrate on the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, given the discussion of the matter by Paul, one to be continued in the Sundays ahead.

We live in an age and country in which there is open denial of any other world, of God, of an afterlife, not to mind any bodily resurrection. There is such open denial by humanists (neo-atheists), poets, literary writers, artists and other well-known persons. Religion can be referred to as “codology”, its cherished doctrines as fairy tales, death as extinction. In such a context it is good to recall a little of the Judeo-Christian doctrine of the afterlife and bodily resurrection. Early Jewish Old Testament thought had a keen perception of the presence of God in his Temple and in everyday trials, troubles and joys. The Psalms are witness to this. And yet these believers had no concept of any meaningful after-death existence. All that remained was a shade in Sheol, the abode of the dead, where shades of the good and the wicked were together. This meant that divine reward and punishment had to take place in this life – something contradicted by experience. 

Belief in a happy (or painful) afterlife only emerged about 200 B.C. This is too big a question to go into in detail here.The call to bear witness to the Gospel. Today’s readings, like those of last Sunday, are about mission and vocations. This topic is treated of in the reflection for last Sunday’s readings in this Internet site, which may still have something to offer.