September 4, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time [I]
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  +  Luke 4:16-30

…the dead in Christ will rise first.

Today’s First Reading is often proclaimed at funerals.  It’s full of teaching from St. Paul about death and the afterlife.  Unfortunately, some of these teachings has been distorted, and demand clarity from the wisdom of holy doctors of the Faith, and the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church.

Consider one of the phrases that St. Paul uses in this passage.  He writes of “those who have fallen asleep” in reference to the dead.  Does this phrase mean that the dead are in some sort of coma until the Second Coming?  This meaning of the phrase has been adopted by some Christians to the exclusion of the Catholic belief in the saints being very much alive and active in Heaven.  The Catholic belief in the afterlife would interpret this phrase of St. Paul as referring to the physical appearance of the dead:  that is, once the soul has left the human body, it seems to our physical senses that the person has fallen asleep.  The various human authors of Sacred Scripture often use such metaphors that appeal only to what seems to be the case.  This appeal has a pedagogic purpose in teaching those who have yet come to understand the Faith fully.

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