Repackaging the Church’s teachings
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 New International Version).
Freedom of religion is a right enshrined under the Constitution (Article III sec. 5, 1987 Philippine Constitution). It is not an ordinary right; in fact, it is superior to other constitutional rights enumerated in the fundamental law. So with all due respect to other religions, let me just discuss, remind and share below the teachings of the Catholic Church as it is our focus on this week’s stories in line with the All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day celebration.
The abovementioned passage is one of the basis for Catholics to give time every November 1 and 2 to visit their departed loved ones. Catholics believe in their official doctrine that man is composed of body and soul. Although the Bible states that “from dust you are to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), this refers only to the human body that will return to dust. There is an important part in him that will undergo both the first and last judgement — the soul.
Catholics believe that right after a person dies, he shall undergo the first judgement. “Man is appointed to die once and after death is judgement.” (Hebrew 9:27) In such judgement, the saints will go to heaven like Elijah and Moses; the sinners who commit mortal sins will go to hell; and those who have not gone to heaven because they committed sin, but not mortal or big enough to go to hell, will go to the purgatory for cleansing. The last judgement is a different thing which can be read in Matthew 25:31-46.
The principle on purgatory is connected with the teaching of the first judgement and the belief that God is love and that God is justice. It is quite similar to the principle of justice here on earth, that every time the judge in a regular court will render his decision, he must see to it that the penalty given must be commensurate to the offense committed.
The additional teaching of the Catholic Church says that those who are in heaven, the saints, will help in praying for those are still on earth. “And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.” (The Apocalypse 5:8 Douay Version). In return, those who are on earth will offer prayers to those who are still in purgatory. The prayers of any kind to be offered to the souls in purgatory will help in their cleansing so that they can finally go to heaven.
“If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them.” (2 Maccabees 12: 44). Such belief prompted Catholics to offer prayers for the departed loved ones. Hence, every Holy Mass, the highest form of prayer, our departed loved ones are always incorporated in it which the priest himself states, “Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence.”
The group of saints in heaven are called the Church Triumphant. The group of souls in purgatory that needs our prayers for their cleansing are called the Church Sufferings. Therefore, in both celebrations, they should not be portrayed in a scary way.
I was glad to hear Fr. Erik Orio of Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral when he was interviewed live during my “Straight to the Point” radio program on All Saints’ Day that there are parishes in Cebu that celebrate the day with children wearing holy costumes and portraying the lives of the saints.
For the souls in purgatory, it is tragic if they are portrayed in scary way instead of embracing and helping them as they need our prayers. The things portrayed for the dead nowadays like vampires, zombies, etcetera, will instead mislead the minds of children about our departed brethren.
Movies, Halloween stories and parties have greatly influenced the minds of the new generations; hence, they have different perspectives and interpretations on the said celebration. It seems that the church’s official teaching is overtaken by misleading information on the matter.
This is a challenge to the church in the present time to find ways as to how to teach the new generation with the official teachings. The church should repackage the teaching in such a way that it is not boring but palatable to the new generation without compromising the content of the doctrine.
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