Similarly, if you tell a typical person living in Worthing or anywhere across Britain today that they are beautiful, made in the perfect image of God, who loves us so much that He wants us all to come and join him for an eternal feast at his ‘pad’, which of course is Heaven, do you think they’d believe you?
I think in both these cases they would think that you were absolutely barmy!
I’m also sure that if the person hung around to provide an explanation, they’d describe that man with his acres of modern wisdom and scientific research formed over centuries of debate and study have proven that heaven, hell and the spiritual realm can’t possibly exist. I’ve seen plenty of online forums, blogs and discussion boards with similar content posted during the recent UK visit of the Pope.
Let’s put science to one side briefly. During mass we say the Nicene Creed as the profession of our faith and it has been recorded as starting with the following words for a long, long time (to be specific since 325AD!);
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen.”
Quite a few Sunday’s ago the word ‘unseen’ stuck in my mind. I can easily see that ‘seen’ relates to the physical world that surrounds us and we can easily touch feel and experience it. But the ‘unseen’ or spiritual world is harder for us to comprehend and to rationalise.
Angels are part of this ‘unseen’ world. So is their homeland of Heaven, God the Father and our spiritual souls, even though they may not be in heaven yet. In this list, which isn’t complete, I should include the daily miracle, where Jesus becomes wholly present in the Eucharist (if you doubt read John 6:51-58). Also and lastly (and rightfully so) satan and his cronies, the demons.
OK, so all these spiritual ‘unseen things’ are hard to accept and I’m sure even some mature Christians, particularly in regards to satan, demons and the angels, put them down to a quirk of ancient writing and not to be believed in today’s technologically advanced and street savvy world.
A scientist must demonstrate any theory using experiments to create physical evidence for their work to be believed by scientists. In John 20:25, Thomas refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could ‘see the mark of the nails in his hands, put his finger into the nail marks and put his hand into his side’. Jesus’ resurrection was so unimaginable to him that it was like he wanted to conduct his own little science experiment in order to believe. After he did this, Jesus said, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”. Jesus is calling us to have faith in the things we haven’t seen or touched (including His resurrection and the other spiritual things listed earlier), putting aside scepticism and doing this will make us ‘blessed’ – meaning it will bring us closer to God.
Like Thomas, must you physically see and touch before you will accept these and other core spiritual elements of our faith? While we are alive, our spiritual self and future inheritance is hidden from us, maybe we are distracted by the splendour of the physical world. As in the caterpillar at the beginning, one day he will become a cocoon and then he’ll be metamorphosed into this magnificent creation. We all too have a future which is far beyond our wildest expectations – although to take our place we must allow ourselves to grow in belief and faith and to progress spiritually through the Word of God and the Church.
St Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians Chapter 15:46 onwards:
“But first came the natural body, not the spiritual one; that came only afterwards. The first man, being made of earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. The earthly man is the pattern for earthly people, the heavenly man for heavenly ones. And as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so we shall bear the likeness of the heavenly one. What I am saying, brothers, is that mere human nature cannot inherit the kingdom of God: what is perishable cannot inherit what is imperishable.”
Finally let’s finish with St Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 who advises us to have courage in believing the spiritual world:
“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”