According to St. Paul, We are in the stage of salvation in which our king is subjecting all enemies to himself to give it all over to God when He finally subjects the last enemy which is death.
We are living in an interesting time, and a time in which it is good to ask ourselves just what is this Catholicism all about? Some will say it is a moral system. Others will describe it as a system that teaches us how to care for each other, maybe in forms of social justice. Others will describe it as a community of faith in which we center ourselves on the teaching of Christ and still others will define Catholicism as a Christ centered existence.
Each of those are both right and wrong simultaneously. However, they do not get to the heart of who we really are. Today, St. Paul in the second reading gives us a powerful insight into exactly the reason for our way of life.
First let us look at the history. He is writing to the people of ancient Corinth. This was a rich port city, which like many port cities was filled with merchants and many of the nations’ rich. It was here that the buying and selling of goods happened and there were people from all over the world. It was also a city that of Greek origin in the Roman empire had a rich heritage of paganism as well as a community of Jews. So you had this busy port city filled with an ecclectic mix of people from all walks of life and all faiths and it is these whom Paul evangelizes to be Christians.
Now, if you go another step, if you are looking for a moral system among the pagans, they already had one in many of their pagan religions. Indeed, the Greeks had a rich history of understanding a self denying morality from the time of Plato and before. If you are looking for a system of caring for others, that was already in place, Aristotle referred to the poor as ambassadors of the gods who had to be treated as such and the Jewish prophets described enriching yourself while others were poor as an abomination. The list goes on. Yet, Paul’s Christianity and our Catholicism go far beyond these simple systems. They define who we are and as such we see in Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians, written around mid first century AD a defining of what it means to be Catholic.
The passage in today’s reading follows Paul’s description of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the oldest eyewitness account of the event. Paul cites that Jesus appeared to 500 the last of which being Paul himself. He so affirmed this witness that he makes it clear that if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead then we are all wasting our time. This is a powerful proclamation from Paul citing why this element of our faith is so important. Hence, today many do not believe in the resurrection and reject our faith. If they cannot accept that Jesus resurrected, Catholicism is a moot point. Paul makes that clear in all his letters. Paul then goes on to define who Jesus is and then who we are.
We learn this basic tenet in our faith, that Jesus, the new Adam, came to reverse the damage done by Adam. That Adam by his disobedience brought death into the world and Jesus by his obedience brought life, but by his action He became the Lord of Life the King of our world today, actively involved in destroying all forms of death that came into the world by Adam’s fall.
This means, that for now, Jesus is our King and will remain so until all enemies of our life are destroyed, the last of which is death.
This process where we are awaiting our salvation as all enemies of our life are being destroyed is where we are now. We, Paul explains, are in the midst of a process that started with a response to Adam’s fall and continues until Jesus’ second coming. You and I are part of that process, we are products and beneficiaries of it if we remain faithful.
So now we see that Paul defines in powerful terms just who we are. We are not just people who are doing good, or doing social justice, or doing liturgy. We are the subjects of our King who is Jesus Christ, responding to his living action for us as He continues putting our enemies under his feet defeating them for our salvation. Finally, when the last enemy is destroyed, then Jesus will no longer be our King, for He will join us that we all become centered on the Father in the New Heaven and the New Earth of eternal salvation. Awaiting this moment and preparing for it is why we do what we do. You and I are awaiting the victorious return of our king in the salvation of the world
This is what we await, so that in the meantime, we respond to the demands of our King for we are part of his Kingdom that is conquering all that is an enemy of our creation. Therefore, our hopes and our responses are focused on our King for we have no ultimate hope in any other. This means that if we do hope in any other then it is a false hope.
There is no Earthly system that can bring us the fullness of life and no matter how much we try to build one, every one ultimately fails. Presently we see many seeking to bring down the current systems world wide including the United States and replace them with their socialistic/communistic utopian dreams. Yet, like every system before them they will fail for only Christ can lead us to live in a society where the system works for the system is God. Paul says this when he shows that ultimately all sovereignties and powers will fall for their is no place for them in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Indeed, the Book of Revelation illustrates this well.
All currently political discourse is based in rights, laws and understandings of Justice. However, Jesus taught that all rights, laws and understandings of justice could only work if they were first based in perfect love of God and perfect love of neighbor that will be found only in the New Heaven and the New Earth. We may be able to build a world that is more just than a previous time, but we cannot build a New Heaven and a New Earth and we cannot find a truly humanizing system outside of that New Heaven and New Earth because flawed humans cannot build a perfect world.
It is for this reason that all our hopes are in Christ our King, for eternal salvation is a world of peace and justice in the presence of the very core of love that is God. This is why we do what we do. You and I are awaiting the victorious return of our king in the salvation of the world. For He alone can lead us to salvation. For we can find it in no other person, system or way of life. Only in the New Heaven and the New Earth brought for to us by our victorious King who then turns it over to his Father. You and I are awaiting the victorious return of our king in the salvation of the world.
God Bless You,
Fr. Robert J Carr
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