“Is that all there Is”

21 Feb 2019 by Mark Trudeau, Comments Off on “Is that all there Is”

Sometime in the late 1960s a talented singer named Peggy Lee recorded one of her most memorable songs in a long and distinguished career. The song’s title is “Is that all there is? A one-time vocalist for the bandleader Benny Goodman, Ms. Lee maintained that she alone was the perfect choice to sing the song. The song was written from the point of view of a person who is sadly disillusioned with life, and whose story is a series of disappointments and setbacks. Ms. Lee suffered the indignities of abuse as a child and later experienced the trauma of four failed marriages. Her life was in shambles!

The inspiration for the song was a short story written by a nineteenth century German novelist, Thomas Mann. The lyrics reflect his rather gloomy perspective on life: “If that is all there is, if that is all there is, my friends, than let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball if that is all there is.”

In view of today’s epistle from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, a question arises: “Is this all there is?”It is a compelling question that leads us to the most ultimate question of all, namely, at the end of the day is there just nothing or is there a resurrection of the dead? Is there life after death? Do we simply disappear, erased from memory, annihilated?

In many of the universities of the Western world, belief in an afterlife is subjected to ridicule and scorn. Too many appear to be of the mind of a famous German philosopher of the nineteenth century, Arthur Schopenhauer, whose bleak view of life is worth noting. “People, burdened with fear, want and sorrow, just dance into the arms of death, wondering what the tragic comedy of life is supposed to mean— and finding out it ends in nothing”. Very often professors seek to soften the blow of a meaningless death b resorting to the use of euphemisms. The deceased person is now ‘one with the cosmos’, or continues to survive in his descendents or even reincarnated. Should we be at all surprised that nowadays very little thought is given to the life to come in our secular culture?

The Christian vision is altogether different.

Belief in the Resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its very beginnings. It is an article of faith and is enshrined in our Creed. “I believe in the Resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come”.

In his catechesis on St. Paul, Pope Benedict writes, “The whole teaching of Paul the Apostle starts from, and arrives at, the mystery of him whom the Father raised from the dead”. Bear in mind that Paul handed on a tradition. “Christ, as the scriptures foretold, died for our sins; that he was buried, and then, as the scriptures foretold, rose again on the third day” (1 Cor.:15:3).

In today’s second reading, (I Cor.15:12-20) the apostle Paul gently scolds the Christians at Corinth for their failure to affirm the resurrection of the dead. “How is it that some of you say the dead do not rise again?” (I Cor.15:12) He carefully explains to the Corinthians the stark implications if Jesus has not been raised. First, his preaching is in vain; second, He is open to the charge of misrepresenting god, of being a false prophet; third, the faith of the Corinthians is meaningless; and fourth, those who died as Christians are definitively lost.

To believe in the Resurrection of Christ entails belief in the Resurrection of the dead. To deny one is to deny the other. “If hope is to be confined to this life and this life only’, insists Paul, “then we are the most pitiable of people”(I Cor.15:19).

Time and again, Christian faith in the Resurrection has met with opposition and incomprehension. In the ancient world, the body was regarded with suspicion and looked upon as the soul’s tomb or prison. It was not in the least desirable to return to it beyond the grave. In stark contrast, the Christian faith teaches that all that God creates is good (Gen.1:31). Human persons, body and soul, are destined to share in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Like the martyrs of our church, we, too, must bear witness to the Resurrection. Love for life did not deter them from death. They were fully confident that a new life awaited them in the hereafter.  If we were to be asked the question, “Is this all there is?”, I pray that we all give a resounding reply: NO! As a community of faith, we echo the words of St. Paul. We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come!

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