The Creed: The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
We are conceived as sinners. Absent divine intervention, you and I would never know communion with God. When we die here on earth, since our souls are immortal, we would consequently exist in a state outside of communion for all eternity. We call this state, hell. Thankfully, God has intervened. In fact, his promise of intervention was concurrent with the fall where he promised that a descendant of the primeval couple would eventually crush the head of the serpent who had wiled and deceived them away from grace (Gen 3.15). God’s plan for our salvation, though eternal, unfolded throughout time, coming to its fulfillment with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.
Jesus’ death on the cross was an act of loving atonement. Though God surely could have accomplished the reconciliation of mankind in many different ways, this was the way he chose. Jesus of Nazareth was a manifestation of perfect love come to dwell in the land of fallen darkness. Many people say they want peace, justice and concord, yet Jesus’ life here on earth exposes such facile desires as lies. In fact, most of us want what we want, when we want it. To that end, we are almost always willing to go to war to get it. Protestations to the contrary are drowned out by the tsunami of human history with its endless conflicts, pogroms and genocides. To the extent that anything good has happened on earth, God deserves all the credit; we, on the other hand, can take full credit for the mess the planet is now in, not to mention our own souls. The proof is in the deicide of the Son of God: when perfect love came to dwell among us, we killed him.
The wages of sin is death (Rom 6.23) and so death we all deserve. The death being described here is eternal separation from God, not biological death. But we should read to the end of the verse: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6.23 KJV) The gift of God is a reference to Jesus’ atoning death on the cross; this is why Christians should wear the cross (or a crucifix) with pride. It is the sign of our redemption and of our freedom.
The forgiveness of sins is a gift from God accomplished through faith which leads to baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism achieves the purification of the soul and the reconciliation of the sinner with God. Because of this, communion is restored and the baptized individual becomes a member of the Church, which is Christ’s Body. He has become an adopted son of God, and as such is entitled to fulfill God’s intended plan of bringing all men into eternal beatitude. While on earth, this state of sanctifying grace can regrettably be lost through sin. This occurrence is called deadly sin (or mortal sin). But God is ever merciful and, while deliberation and temporal decision making remain open to us, we can choose to avail ourselves of God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When confession is used in this manner, it acts like nothing other than an effective re-baptism. This is because it restores sanctifying grace and reestablishes us in a relationship with God in and through his Church.
If we die in this grace and enter immortality, this permanent state of communion with God results in everlasting life in the company of Jesus, Mary, and all the angels and saints. Everlasting life has already begun and it will continue through death. In truth, everlasting life is the destiny of all humans, whether they end up in heaven or hell. Immortality cannot be avoided, for it is our nature as creatures created in the image and likeness of God. Even if the likeness is lost through sin, we will still live forever. This should be a very sobering thought, for where and how we live in the afterlife is completely up to us.
The resurrection of the body occurs at the end of time when Jesus comes in glory to draw down the curtain on his creation. All, the good and the bad (see Matt 25.31-46), are bodily raised from the dead at this second coming of the Lord. These bodies are immortal and glorified; they cannot corrupt or grow sick and they can never die. This is in keeping with the “new heavens and the new earth” that are established by the Lord at his Parousia. Again, all mankind is raised immortal from the dead, whether bound for heaven or hell.
The Apostles’ Creed is an ancient and bare bones symbol (summary) of our faith. All Catholics are required to believe in and profess this faith (in the manner proposed by the Church) in order to remain in communion with God and with the community of his faithful. We acknowledge this adherence to the content of our faith by saying “Amen” at the end of the creed’s recitation each week. This ‘Amen’ is echoed later when we say the same right before we receive the sign of our communion with God, the Most Holy Eucharist. If we cannot say ‘Amen’ to the content of the creed, then we cannot receive communion, since our failure to do so results in an effective excommunication and could even constitute a mortal sin. Knowing this faith is therefore of the utmost importance.
I hope that my short reflections over these last months have been helpful to you. Should you like to delve more deeply into any of these saving propositions, I advise you to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which goes into much greater depth.