1 Corinthians 15:12
Paul said “if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”
First of all, this is a continuation from last weekend’s reading where Paul said: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins… That he was raised on the third day…”
Also in last week’s reading, he next aligns himself with the other apostles. He does this to set up what he is going to talk about in today’s reading. Early in Christianity, there were people who were trying to distort the message of the gospel. These people were called gnostics. Paul is trying to combat this, not just with his words, but with the authority he has as an apostle. The gnostics believed that the body was of no use, and the only thing that was important was what is spiritual, meaning our soul.
But Paul is making the point that because Jesus was raised from the dead, there is a very important aspect to our bodies. The fact is, we are not like the angels. We are spirit and body. God does not intend the separation of the two for all eternity. Because of sin, the body does die. But the gnostics thought that sin and death were the proof that the body is evil.
I know, there was much more to their thoughts, but this is the simplest way to describe it. The church, from the time of Paul, has consistently rejected the teachings of the gnostics, in all their forms. We see that in the rest of Paul’s reading today.
There were some in Paul’s day who were denying the resurrection, and yet claimed to be following Jesus. I do not understand how that would possibly be, and yet this is what Paul was warning the Corinthians about.
There is a terrible twist on this in our today. You most often hear it in the Latin phrase “carpe diem” – “seize the day”. It is a materialism that seeks only the time we have now as being important. Live life with abandon, with gusto, live for the moment. I am sure there are other phrases that could be used. All of them focus on “the here and now”.
This materialism is the reverse of Gnosticism. It says the spiritual is of no importance. It is called agnosticism.
Paul, instead, is telling us that because Christ was raised from the dead, it is a proof that God sees the body as important. And, those of us who have not been caring for what God has given us, and I have to admit, I have to include myself in that because of my weight. We are not living fully, or properly, expecting the resurrection of the body and its glorification.
If we were, there would be a desire to make both our souls and our bodies as pure and holy, as perfect and worthy of God’s presence as we could make them. Thanks be to God we have a merciful God. Because all of us in one way or another manage to fail to live to the ideal that God has called us to. We see examples of that in the extremes posed in the first reading and in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes that speaks of blessings and woes that we just heard.
I am reminded of another of Jesus’ sayings later in Luke’s Gospel that says it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. When his disciples challenge him on that, he says for man it is impossible, but for God, everything is possible. So, while we hear these calls to holiness both in our souls and in our bodies, we also have to remember that God in his graciousness and mercy brings us past our own failures, if we rely on him. To rely on him does not mean we give up our attempts to make ourselves holy and acceptable to the Lord.
But I also have to say that I am very tired of failing to be holy as God is holy. I am tired of failing to discipline my body sufficiently to be the kind of example God needs in our world today.
As Paul said in our reading today: ”if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” Christ’s resurrection is the proof and promise of God’s gift to us of a glorified body, united with our soul, that will give glory to God for all eternity – if we remain faithful to who he has called us to be. And my greatest regret, right now, is that I am still not fully who he has called me to be as a priest, or as a human being, who gives glory and honor to God in everything I do.
Lord Jesus, we are foolish and weak. Our society around us tries to tell us something different than what you call us to live for. Help us to live in one of St. Paul’s other lines: “when I am weak, then he is strong.”
We want to be strong in your ways, spiritually and physically so that we can be good witnesses to what you call us to be, namely your disciples. Help us not to be bad witnesses any longer, but help us to be conformed to your holiness in our souls and in our bodies so that we can shout to the world: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.”