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The how and when of resurrection
Q. After they are buried long enough or are cremated, and our bodies are no more, how can resurrection take place? Also, when does resurrection take place?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The Scriptures and the tradition of the Church can only speak in a halting and incomplete manner on this question. The starting point has to be the truth that the God who made us and allows us to die is the same God who raises us from the dead. God is the author of life, death and resurrection. His power knows no limit.
In the Gospel of John we have one of the most expressive images in Jesus' preaching on the matter of death and resurrection: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the death and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24).
As the old wheat dies and the new is born again, so the old self "falls to the earth" and is raised up as something utterly transformed and imperishable.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons speaks as follows about the resurrection: "Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: So too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection."
When does the resurrection take place? At two moments: at our natural death -- where the soul still retains in some way a relationship to the body -- but definitively on the Last Day, when Christ comes again in glory.
The meaning of “theophany”
Q. I heard the word theophany in a Bible discussion group. I’m not sure I understand what it means. Can you explain?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
“Theophany” comes from a Greek term meaning God’s appearance to human beings. In the Old Testament, God’s majesty was usually hidden, so Gideon encountered God through an angel (see Jgs 6:12), Elijah in a “tiny whispering sound” that followed a mighty wind and an earthquake (1 Kgs 19:12), and Job in a whirlwind (Job 38). The prophets Isaiah (Chapter 6) and Jeremiah (Chapter 1) were privileged to see God more clearly.
The most significant Old Testament theophany is probably Moses’ encountering God in the burning bush (see Ex. 3:4), in which, Deuteronomy later says, “The Lord spoke with you face to face … from the midst of the fire” (5:4). Each of these events is momentous, but their purpose is to reveal Gods’ will, which is more important than revealing his face. “In making his will known, God reveals himself to his people” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2059).
The New Testament records few theophanies, simply because Jesus is the visible manifestation of God to the world. However, the angels’ appearance to the shepherds, the voice that acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son when Jesus was baptized, and the cloud of glory that descended upon the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration are all examples of theophany in the New Testament.
Confess to a Priest?
Q. A non-Catholic friend is curious about the Sacrament of Penance. She asks me, "Why should I confess my sins to a priest when I can go straight to God and ask His forgiveness?" How shall I answer her?
M.N., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
To adequately respond to this question, we must start with the nature of sin itself.
Imagine yourself standing beside a small quiet pond and tossing a large rock out into the middle. From the point of impact you see concentric circles going out and out, until you finally lose track of them.
Sin is like that. In each instance of sin we usually know the prime target of our sin, in addition to our sinning against God. But our sins, no matter how private, always affect other people in ways we cannot know.
The effects of our sins go out and out, like the concentric circles in the pond we mentioned. We can ask forgiveness from the person or persons we know we have offended, and make necessary acts of reparation.
But what about the other persons whom our sins have harmed, persons whose identity we cannot know? We need forgiveness from them, too.
That is why Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Penance. He authorized certain persons (His priests) to speak in His name and in the name of the community we have offended by our sins.
Through the priest, therefore, we are enabled (1) to ask pardon of all the persons affected by our sins, and (2) to receive their forgiveness. The unknown persons whom our sins have affected may not know about our asking their pardon. But the important thing is that we have repented, and through the priest have sincerely asked for the pardon of all whom we have offended.
I must regularly confess my sins to God alone. But that's not enough. I must also regularly and frequently confess to a priest who represents members of the Church as well as God.
Jesus Christ never dealt in mere options. When He established the Catholic Church, He intended that all His followers should be part of it. When He gave us the Sacrament of Penance, He intended that we all should make use of it.
Announcements at Mass
Q. Please address the issue of announcements at the end of Mass. Is it allowed for this to be done after the blessing? I think that doing so takes away from being sent at the end of Mass. In my parish it used to take place after the last prayer and before the blessing, but I understand that some parishioners prefer to have it after the sending/blessing.
Gerti, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Let's take a look at the GIRM on this point:
"The concluding rites consist of:
a. brief announcements, if they are necessary;
b. the priest's greeting and blessing, which on certain days and occasions is enriched and expressed in the prayer over the people or another more solemn formula;
c. the dismissal of the people by the deacon or the priest, so that each may go out to do good works, praising and blessing God;
d. the kissing of the altar by the priest and the deacon, followed by a profound bow to the altar by the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers" (No. 90).
So, the announcements are to be made after the Prayer after Communion, and before the final blessing.
What is a “Servant of God”?
Q. How does one get recognized as a Servant of God? Is this a step on the path to sainthood.
In the early Church, public veneration was the sole factor by which an individual’s holiness was judged. An account of miracles associated with the individual was presented to the local bishop, who then declared the individual a saint.
By the 10th century, papal approval of a person’s sanctity conferred greater dignity than a bishop’s, so identifying saints gradually fell to the Roman pontiff. By the 13th century, papal acknowledgment became the norm by which saints were recognized.
The Code of Canon Law, first published in 1918, gave instructions for judging whether an individual should be counted among the saints. The first step is interviewing those who knew the individual, or claim to have received special favors from praying to her or him. If the local bishop finds the testimony compelling, he will send it to the Roman authorities for further investigation. At this point, the individual is formally titled “Servant of God,” and ongoing scrutiny may result in the individual’s canonization. “By canonizing some of the faithful … the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit … and sustains the hope of believers.… ‘The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.’ ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 828).
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