During this Easter season there are Mass readings that give us all a great reason for hope! When we read of Christ’s various appearances during this time, we are reminded that he conquered death not only for himself but for all of us as well!
We see Jesus walking among his amazed apostles, appearing out of nowhere (Jn 20:19) and disappearing as well (Lk 24:31). And yet He clearly is not a ghost. Do ghosts eat baked fish? (Lk 24:43) Can you touch their hands and their sides, as St. Thomas, the original Doubting Thomas did (Jn 21:27-28)? Can they make breakfast for you? (Jn 21:12). Jesus did all these things and more, no doubt, over a 40-day period preceding His Glorious ascension into Heaven!
Clearly Christ gave us a tantalizing foretaste of what each of us will be capable of after His return and our own bodily resurrection, which is mentioned in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. But what does that resurrection entail?
According to Father Vincent Serpa writing for Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com, a great website, by the way!) “The Church teaches that at the resurrection the bodies of the just will be re-modeled and transfigured to the pattern of the risen Christ. Like his body, our resurrected bodies will be those of a person in his prime.” Our resurrected body in heaven will be like your wildest dreams come true, only better!
What’s the catch, you say? There is none! (Well, there is one, you have to make it to heaven! If you wind up in hell, your body will join your soul in endless misery rather than endless joy.)
Your glorified body will be glorious indeed! It will possess four distinctly awesome attributes:
1) Impassibility (meaning no sickness or disease. No worries about doctors or hospitals. Ever.)
2) Subtlety: meaning it will be controlled by your soul in a harmonious partnership. You will have a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:44). That’s how our Lord could pass through doors as if walking through them (Jn 19:20, 26).
3) Clarity: Your new body will shine, free of imperfections, with eternal vigor. Think of it like being 30 forever! With no jealousy or insecurity about how you or anyone else look! You’re in heaven, after all where no toxic emotions like envy exist, as discussed here.
And wait! That’s not all…as they say in commercials…your body will also have this great
4) Agility! You’ll be able to move at the speed of thought anywhere and everywhere! No doubt that’s how Jesus was able to appear and then suddenly vanish a short while later to the disciples on the road to Emmaus! (Lk 24:31) In short, imagine your body and soul united by a peace treaty rather than an uneasy armistice, basking in and reflecting God’s glory!
Clearly we human beings have each been created by God with both a body and a soul, unlike God Himself and His angels who exist as pure spirits. Our souls go first upon death to everlasting peace and happiness (in heaven) or misery (in hell) or to a temporary mix of the two that varies according to the state of one’s soul (in purgatory).
St. Paul referred to the bodily resurrection of the just like this: “What is sown in corruption rises in incorruption; what is sown in dishonor rises in glory; what is sown in weakness rises in power; what is sown a natural body rises a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:42-44).
At the Final Judgment upon Christ’s Second Coming, our bodies will join our souls in Eternal bliss and peace in Heaven or damnation and torture in Hell. In other words, matter matters. We were not created to just be pure spirits! The celebrated novelist and scholar C.S. Lewis wrote in his wonderful book Mere Christianity that “He [God] likes matter. He invented it”.
And yet… St. Paul bemoaned the fact that he himself struggled with sinful inclinations in his flesh (Rom 7:14-25). It seems so much of the time that our bodies seem like excess baggage on our spiritual journey, both figuratively, and perhaps literally as well!
Our Lord Himself warned the Apostles Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His arrest to “watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." (Mt 26:41).
Thanks to Original Sin, we are all burdened with concupiscence in one form or another. St. Paul wrote of the importance of avoiding immorality so that we might glorify God with our bodies by making them fit temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:20).
Our bodily needs and wants can all too easily create all kinds of trouble for our souls! Addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, sex or pornography (the biggest one of these perhaps), can entangle us in a web of guilt and deceit leading to much anxiety, heartache and misery. To say nothing of imperiling our salvation through mortal sins!
And what’s more, too many of us get caught up in the trap of “glorifying” our bodies at the expense of our souls. And while there is nothing wrong certainly with wanting to be healthy some people carry it to extremes, practically living to exercise, or to pamper themselves, making their bodies temples of their own vanity!
Others go to the opposite extreme of letting themselves go to pot as it were, piling on the pounds while binge eating and binge watching TV shows (thank you Netflix, HULU, Amazon, et al.).
In addition, you might know someone who has reacted to life’s crosses by abusing their body in some manner. (Or maybe you’ve done so yourself.) Perhaps that horrible boss or difficult family member or co-worker has you reaching for a cigarette or a stiff drink or two or three, or perhaps some prescription mood-changer, in an effort to cope with the situation.
Or perhaps in this celebrity and sex-crazed society in which we currently reside, you are one of those people who feel you’re nothing if your body isn’t perfect, like something you’d find in a glossy magazine. Perhaps, you’ve been seduced by Hollywood’s values (they don’t call it Tinseltown for nothing!) and, seeking love through superficial glamour, you live in a kind of quiet terror over bodily gravity as you age.
(You’d do well to remember that famous quote from the book of Ecclesiastes “vanity of vanities all is vanity" (Eccl 1:2). Or perhaps this one: “For man sees those things that are apparent, but the Lord beholds the heart” (1 Sm 16:7).)
Remember in bearing your crosses in your aches and pains and struggles against temptations, that God wants to help you deal with them. When you look at a crucifix, you see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who underwent and understands pain better than anyone. He suffered at Calvary for each one of us, and that includes you!
Our aches and pains, both physical and emotional, if dealt with in prayer and offered up to God gracefully, can help us attain Eternal Paradise. This can make these crosses somewhat easier to bear, as discussed here.
And to keep vices from becoming habits, it’s important to cultivate a life of prayer, obedience to God’s Commandments, and frequent partaking of the Sacraments of the Eucharist (for God’s graces); and Penance (to keep cleansing your soul of its sinful inclinations in confession; and, especially; of getting absolution for mortal sins so you can take communion again afterwards!)
Taming your body’s ornery habits with willful penances such as fasting, or continuing one of your Lenten sacrifices one day a week, might not hurt either. Self-discipline is an important part of controlling your bodily desires, rather than having them control you, after all.
Keep your eyes on the prize, heaven, and where your body and soul will dwell in perfect harmony in God’s loving embrace and presence in what is known as the Beatific vision. You will experience His love and beauty in a place where goodness is never cloying or tiring or suspect. Where there is no evil, sadness, falsehoods, or suffering whatsoever.
This Easter season, let’s pray for each other as “citizens in training” for heaven, that someday we may see each other there in that place of endless peace and love. Think of all the new friends you'll have as well when we have no hidden agendas or resentments or envy of others. That’s what God intended for us before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s also that for which he died for us on the cross at Calvary!