Dear Fr. Joe: Where was Jesus’ soul during the three days he was in the tomb?
Strangely enough, we think at least some of those days, he was in Toledo ... who knew? Seriously, though, the Catechism of the Catholic Church directly addresses this in sections 631-637. I will summarize as best I can what is found there. First, we need to understand that Jesus did, in fact, die. “... Jesus, like all men, experienced death, and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead.” What happened to Jesus on Good Friday wasn’t something akin to death, but actual death. That is important because of what that death allowed Jesus to do. As the Son of God, he descended into death as the Savior, not just another person who died. The idea is this: that all death that occurred before the “Jesus event” led people to an afterlife called Sheol, where they were “deprived of the vision of God.” This was the case for both the good and the bad who had died. However, we do know that the afterlife was different for the good and the bad, as is shown in the story of Lazarus. Jesus said Lazarus was at “Abraham’s bosom,” and the rich man was “in torment.” (Luke 16, 22-26) So, before Jesus, everyone who died descended into Sheol; a place where they could not see God. The people who rejected God had a different experience there than those who followed and loved God. When Jesus died, he descended into that place and delivered those who knew loved and served God from Sheol into heaven. Remember, Jesus “did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.” (CCC 633)
Dear Fr. Joe: Did Jesus raise himself from the dead?
Let’s start with Scripture on this one. First, Romans 10:9: “For, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” OK, here Paul shows us that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Now, let’s look at Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” Here, Paul tells us it was God the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. But wait! There’s more! Now, let’s look at two passages from the Gospel of John. First, John 2:19-21: “At this the Jews answered and said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for 46 years, and you will raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” And John 10:17-18: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.” When we read these passages, we see Jesus raising himself from the dead! So, which one was it? It was all three – the wonder and the mystery of our triune God working to raise Jesus from the dead. Enjoy another day in God’s presence.