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1. Why the Catholic Church? The Church is the Body of Christ, and is Christ's symbol of unity on earth for all believers. Unity is so important to God because He wants us all to be one body, one family. How do we see this unity? The unity of the Church is seen in her love, her Profession of Faith, the celebration of the sacraments, and in Apostolic succession. Many Christian churches have tried to be faithful to this, but only the Catholic Church has remained true in these regards. This is not to boast, because she has failed in the category of love, and that failure calls for repentance. (Ephesians 5:1-5)
2. Christ loves the Church and holds her in the highest esteem - and we should do the same. The love Christ has for the Church is the basis for the love between husband and wife. He offered His life for her security (Ephesians 5:21-32). The Catholic Church is the only Church to have stayed loyal to Christ and His teaching. It was Christ's intention to have only one Church, a visible structure on earth (John 17:22). Christ founded the Church on Peter, (Matthew 16:18). We must be loyal to his successor, the pope, who acts as a visible sign of unity for the entire Church. All of this does not mean that non-Catholics are bad, nor does it mean that Catholics are superior: It means to say, however, that Christ desires only one Church, and the fullness of the desire is in the Catholic Church.
3. The Church and the life of the Church are designed to get each person to heaven after they die. Christ has promised us an abundant life with Him throughout eternity, and He has guaranteed this with His own bodily resurrection. The Church has a clear teaching on what will happen in the afterlife. In order to understand this, some important terms must be clarified:
- The Particular Judgment: This is the first judgment that each person goes through immediately after death. Each person is rewarded for their works and faith. At this time, they are sent to either heaven (either immediately or after purification) or to everlasting damnation.
- Heaven: This is the place reserved for all those who die in God's grace and friendship. Here the faithful live with Christ forever. Life in Heaven centers around the Trinity and includes all of God's angels, saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Heaven is the place of perfect happiness.
- The Final Purification/Purgatory: Purgatory is the place where God's faithful are purified in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. This is not a permanent state, but rather a temporary one. The Church asks us to pray for those in Purgatory so that they may enter Heaven.
- Hell: The only way we are united with God is by freely loving Him. Hell is the permanent state reserved for those who reject His love. This rejection is known as a mortal sin, one that permanently breaks off our relationship with God. God will forgive this sin if we repent, but failure to repent means an eternity in hell, separated from God by our own free choice. No one is predestined by God to go to hell; they go there only through their free choice.
- Resurrection of the Dead: The Resurrection of the dead will be the last day, the end of the world as we know it. God will reunite each person, the just and the damned, with their body, giving them a perfected, incorruptible body, a body that cannot be affected by sickness or death.
- Second Coming: Also known as Christ's Parousia, the Second Coming will happen at the same time as the Resurrection of the Dead. Christ in all His glory will descend upon the earth with all the angels.
- The Last Judgment: Once He has returned, Christ will then gather all nations and judge the living and the dead. The truth of each man's relationship with God will be known, and the everlasting consequences will be. Those who have done good shall go to eternal life, and those who have done evil shall go to eternal punishment. Through the Last (or General) Judgment, God's justice, wisdom, and mercy will be shown to all.
- New Heaven and New Earth: After the Last Judgment, the righteous will live forever with Christ, and all the universe will be perfectly re-established in Christ. God will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem, and the entire human race will be united with Him. Everything in creation will be transformed and be at the service of those with God in Heaven. As for the time of this, no one knows except the Father.
4. To summarize: God plans on saving our entire being, body and soul. We will get our bodies back in heaven if we make it there. Our task is always to remain faithful to Jesus. God's love for us will be eternal, but we have to remain faithful to Christ. Faithfulness to Christ is achieved:
- Now: One admits the need for repentance/conversion.
- Daily: One's life is rooted in prayer, sacraments, and holy living.
- Eternally: One commits oneself to Christ as the center of one's life.