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Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen! So Shall We!

Conversations About 
the Resurrection of the Body

Riding the Matterhorn in Disneyland California
by Susan Fox

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me and
Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel
Feel what it's like to be new

(Soul Meets Body sung by Death Cab for Cutie written by Benjamin Gibbard)

So I was waiting in line for a wild ride on the Matterhorn in Disneyland, California. Probably it was my third time round. 

I happened to hear a Mormon father talking to his three sons, telling them about the planets they’d rule with their wives in the life that is to come. They would get to tell everyone else on their planet what to do to live a godly life. Oh boy.

I turned around (they were behind me in line). I said, “Is God your Father?”  

“Oh yes!” he responded. “Well,” I said, “God is my Father too! And that makes us brother and sister so I will be there with you!” 

He was careful not to choke with laughter.  But I’m sure I’m the last person he expected to see on his private planet.

However, I am Catholic, and I fully expect to see him at my banquet in the Kingdom of God. I asked Our Father to invite him. But I will be dressed in a different state, wearing my
You are invited to my banquet too!
high-powered resurrected and spiritual body, having shuffled off my temporal coil.


Christ in His Resurrection showed us this future body is fully fleshed with bones and muscles, able to eat and drink. Apparently it is also capable of suddenly appearing in rooms as well! 

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24: 36-43)
But one thing my Mormon friend didn’t understand about the afterlife was that marriage is a natural institution, not a supernatural one. No one will be begetting children in the Kingdom of Heaven. The sensual aspect of our natural bodies will not be part of the future man. Instead it will be transformed into something better. We will be like Him! 

"Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is." (1John 3:2)

That isn’t something a Mormon would comprehend. In fact, they deny that the Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their leader, Brigham Young, said if that had occurred, their women could not be baptised by the Holy Spirit as they risked becoming pregnant. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were gods with a carnal nature when Mormonism was founded. Today they define the Spirit as spirit. But the Father and Son still  are identified as immortal beings with a carnal nature.


To the Mormon at Disneyland, Jesus would have said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matt 22:29-30) That’s what He told the
Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. They had asked Jesus about the widow married seven times without having any children. In the future life, “Whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matt 22:28)

Jesus’ response? “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Matthew 22:29-30) The widow will be living the perfect realisation of her humanity completely satisfied by her deep participation in the Trinitarian Life of God and supernatural love of neighbour, known as the communion of saints. 

In fact, Jesus said, “people at the resurrection will be like the angels in heaven.”

Note the word “like” in that quote. Jesus is not saying we will be flying around as pure spirits with no bodies. No in fact our likeness to angels will not occur through dis-incarnation, but “by another kind of spiritualisation of his (our) bodily nature, that is by another system of powers in man.” according to Pope Saint John Paul II in his classic work Theology of the Body (Section 66.5) 

Theology of the Body is a series of weekly audiences given by Pope John Paul II in the early 1980s. It is generally associated with the unity and indissolubility of marriage. But to my surprise he has a big section on the Resurrection of the Body. And using Scripture, he has nailed down what it will be like living in eternity with God.  

The pope rejects Plato’s idea that the body and soul are only temporarily linked in favour of Aristotle’s teaching that body and soul together constitute the unity and integrity  of the human being. That would seem to be borne out by Christ’s words on the Resurrection in Luke. (Theology of Body, 66.5) 

"But those who are considered worthy to share in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are like the angels. And since they are sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God. (Luke 20:35-36)

“This statement allows us above all to deduce a spiritualisation of man according to a dimension that is different from that of earthly life,” Pope John Paul II said.  “It is obvious that we are not dealing here with a transformation of man’s nature into an angelic, that is purely spiritual nature. The context indicates clearly that in the other world man will keep his own psychosomatic (both mind and body) nature. If it were otherwise, it would be meaningless to speak about the resurrection.” (Theology of the Body, 66.5)

Then He defines resurrection:  “Restoration to the true life of human bodiliness, which was subjected to death in its temporal phase.”

Speaking again to the Sadducees, Jesus reminded them, “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt 22: 31-32)

The Future Life: Full of living men and women whose unique lives we are familiar on this earth. We will have living bodies completely integrated with living souls in one unity known as the human person. 

However, peaceful co-existence between body and soul  is not what we experience now. The pope reminds us of St. Paul’s quote, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind.” (Rom 7:23) In fact, doesn’t it feel like we always  start with good intentions, but quite frankly then we end up doing ill instead of good?

“Eschatological (future) man will be free from this opposition,” the pope said. Good news! Our body will return to “perfect unity and harmony with the spirit!” (67.1) Man will no longer feel at war with himself or capable of sin. In the supernatural state of life, we will have complete self-mastery of spirit over body.

Pope John Paul II noted that in this earthly life many spiritually mature individuals manage to use the energies of their spirit to master the forces of the body, but there is always the possibility of St. Paul’s opposition: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind.”

But future man is perfectly spiritualised. The possibility of such a war within himself is “completely eliminated.” (Theology of the Body,67.2) Yahoo! The fact that humans have complete and effortless self-mastery in heaven does not mean that man is dehumanised, but in fact we have the perfect realisation of our humanity.

The spirit’s primacy will be realised. “It will be manifested in a perfect spontaneity without any opposition on the part of the body.” (Theology of the Body, 67.2)

Nevertheless we shouldn’t see this as some sort of victory of the spirit over the body, the pope cautions. “The resurrection will consist in the perfect participation of all that is bodily in man in all that is spiritual in him… and in the perfect realisation of what is personal in man.”  (Theology of the Body, 67.2)

This is no Nirvana that the pope is writing about. Our unique individual personality will be still there. In fact, the Catholic Church teaches that we are not to deny our senses, but in fact we are to work at their sanctification in this life. They’ll be with us for eternity in a resurrected form.

As my mother lay in the hospital — mere days before her death in 2001, I brought in a bunch of herbs from my garden. She was recently and suddenly struck blind, dying of Sepsis, her body swelling. But she savoured the smell of the herbs with such gusto. I have never seen another human being enjoy the sense of smell as much as she did at that moment. That is God’s plan for all of our lives, but we often wait too long to experience that sense of joy.

The next step for Mom and all of us,  who live a good life, is another kind of  divinization. 

“Participation in the inner life of God Himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine, will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before,” the pope said. (Theology of the Body, 67.3)

This will be a fruit of grace, that is of God’s self-communication in His divinity — not just to man’s soul — but to “the whole of man’s psychosomatic subjectivity.” (Theology of the Body 67.3)  Now psychosomatic means both mind and body. Subjectivity  refers to the fact that not only will man experience God in his interior state, but he will also see him face to Face. 

“The divinization in the other world (indicated by Christ’s words) will bring to the human spirit such a range of experience of truth and of love that man would never have been able to reach it in earthly life.” Pope John Paul II added. (Theology of the Body, 67.4) 

Wow.

I used to visit an elderly woman in the nursing home who wept when she remembered her beautiful home before they incarcerated her in a tiny room. I used to console her by reminding her that what was ahead — the future life — would make her lovely expensive hacienda look like a trashy low-rent motel. "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love." (1Cor 2:9)

One of the consoling aspects of this theology based on Jesus statement, “they will take neither wife nor husband,” is that we retain our male, female form in the next life. The soul forms the body. The integrated soul and body is either female or male. If we are no longer male and female in the resurrection, then why would Christ bother to tell us “they take neither wife nor husband.”

“The words, take neither wife nor husband, seem to affirm that human bodies, which are recovered and also renewed in the resurrection will preserve their specific masculine or feminine character and that the meaning of being male or female in the body will be constituted differently in the other world than it it had been “from the beginning” and then in its earthly dimension.” (Theology of the Body, 66.4) So “from the beginning” refers to the Fall of Adam and Eve. The human body was not subject to corruptibly before the Fall as it is now, and it will be spiritualised in its resurrected form. But it will still be male and female. No sex change operation in this life will change that reality.


Perhaps the most compelling and consoling
paragraphs about the future life in Theology of the Body come from a commentary on 1Corinthians 15. (Theology of the Body, 70-72)


"But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.(1Corinthians 15:35-44)
So, Paul says, there is a natural body, and there is a supernatural body. Then he draws the analogy between the first Adam and the last Adam Christ. 
“The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven...And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1Cor 15:47-49)
Look in the mirror. See the Face of the glorified Christ. There is your future, dear man.


St. Paul actually encountered the Person of Jesus Christ in his glorified Body on the road to Damascus. Based on that experience, he  wrote that in the resurrection, the body will
be “imperishable, glorious, full of power, spiritual.”  The historical man — namely us — is subject to the “slavery of corruption.” (Rom 8:21) “To this slavery of corruption the whole of creation is indirectly subjected because of the sin of man, who had been placed by the Creator in the midst of the visible world that he might dominate.” (Theology of the Body, 70.8)
So we read the whole of creation “waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God.” Wake up. That is your bell ringing, dear baptised and sanctified human kind! “and (creation) cherishes the hope that it itself will be set free from the slavery of corruption to enter into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19-21)
Remember the Prologue of the Gospel of John defines those children as those “who did accept him.”  He gave power to them to become children of God. They believe in the “name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.” (John 1:12-13) And so in our re-birth in Baptism we are born anew -- not out of human will or urge of the flesh, but of God Himself. And having been faithful to God during our lives, in our death, we are reborn into a spiritualised body full of power. 
But in our humanity today, we carry within ourselves as did Adam and Eve the “particular potentiality (capacity and readiness) for receiving all that the second Adam became, the heavenly Man, namely Christ; what He became in His Resurrection.” (Theology of the Body, 71.3)
St. Paul agrees, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of earth, we will bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1Cor 15:29)
So the pope concludes that the same humanity, which seems to be in dishonour in this life, nevertheless carries within itself the desire for glory, the tendency and capacity to become “glorious” in the image of the risen Christ (Theology of the Body, 71.3)
So, go ahead. Look in the mirror. You are weak, sinful and often sick in this life, but someday you will be riding high with the Sons of the Resurrection.

Riding with the sons of the Resurrection, the communion of saints
Standing at the coffin of my Aunt Breta, I told my little son, James, about the Resurrection. Seeing her in death, he became disturbed. “Mother, when is she going to wake up?”
From our perspective in this life, James, it seems to take awhile. 

Soul Meets Body
(sung by Death Cab for Cutie written by Benjamin Gibbard)

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me and
Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel
Feel what it's like to be new
'Cause in my head there's a Greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place where they're
Far more suited than here
I cannot guess what we'll discover
When we turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels
But I know our filthy hands can wash one another's
And not one speck will remain
I do believe it's true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So brown eyes I'll hold you near
'Cause you're the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body
I do believe it's true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So brown eyes I'll hold you near
'Cause you're the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere

2 comments:

  1. Very important topic, as many Christians who believe superficially not reading the Bible, still think in a way Platon thought. Christ's message is fully revolutionary: we will have another life with our bodies and death is only a passage. God bless you Madame Fox for reminding it+:)

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  2. God bless you Jan! Are you by any chance in Slovakia? Or from Poland? I have a lot readers in Slovakia. English is not a barrier for them apparently. I'm so happy to have you on board. Susan Fox

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