DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN July 23-25, 1999 vol. 10, no. 137
NEWS & VIEWS
REACTION TO POPE'S CATECHESIS ON HEAVEN
Echo in Media
ROME, JUL 22 (ZENIT).- John Paul II's catechesis on Heaven at yesterday's general audience has struck at the heart of the matter. At this midpoint in the summer holidays, elements of the media have given attention to an unbelievable debate -- "The Meaning of Heaven."
Professor Carlo Molari, leading exponent of the Italian Association of Theologians and for many years professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Urban University of Rome, said to the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica," that paradise has always been thought of as a place one can fly to and hear the angels play instruments. "The imagination has gone to work on a world we cannot even imagine. Painters have shattered the heavens to represent an imagined collectivity, magnifying terrestrial joys, pure skies, green fields, peaceful people," he noted.
But paradise is not really like this, according to Prof. Molari. Paradise is "the fullness of relation with God. Religious experience makes us perceive a Presence, but, as limited beings, we are unable to express its greatness."
As regards the resurrection of the body, "it can be said symbolically that the special final dimension will also develop as a corporeal experience. Our body is condensed energy. It will flower in its totality, it will reach an unheard of dimension, like the fetus, which fully flowers at birth," Professor Molari explained.
In regard to the Holy Father's teaching on the possibility of beginning to experience the happiness of Heaven on earth, Professor Molari said, "This is obvious, even for someone who does not believe in God. It is credible for the person who perceives that reality is richer and deeper than what we see at present."
"It is essential that modern man think about the Last Things," Professor Molari concluded. "There were periods in history where this did not happen. The ancient Jews, for example, did not think about it. In the beginning they believed that to have more children and more cattle was a blessing from God. Later they passed to a more mature phase. Today it is critical to think of the Last Things. Humanity has discovered the incompleteness of things, situations, experiences and persons with respect to the unrest we have in our hearts."
According to Inos Biffi, professor at the Faculty of Theology of Milan and Lugano, "Heaven is where we see and love the Father. From this point of view, it means to be with the glorified Lord, and to share in his loving vision of the Father. There is eternal happiness and unending joy in this, and that is Heaven. The place does not matter at all. Because Heaven must not be understood as a 'physical' place with characteristics like terrestrial bodies that are subject to experience. 'Heaven' is beyond any representation of terrestrial or temporal experience, of the kind with which we are familiar."
"Rather than be concerned with describing ultimate realities," said Prof. Biffi, "it is important to prepare oneself to participate, and this is the grace God gives to those who love Him, as Jesus said. 'If any one loves me, we will come to him and make our home in him.' In fact, we can say that the person in the state of grace, already lives in paradise. Whoever loves God is already in Heaven, since Heaven is within him even though, to use St. Paul's words, 'the future glory has not yet been revealed' or, as St. John says, 'what we will be has not yet been revealed.' "
To the question as to why Heaven and hell are concepts that have
virtually disappeared from the modern mind, Bishop Biffi explained, "If
Heaven has disappeared or is cloudy in a mind, it is because Jesus
Christ has disappeared and become cloudy. The only way for Heaven to
reappear is to return to Jesus Christ through the Gospel and faith.
There are no other ways."
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NEWS & VIEWS