The Easter Season has just begun and our celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection lasts 50 days, because we celebrate more than we prepared (40 days of Lent). The Resurrection is the most important of all events for us. As St. Paul says,
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”1 Cor 15:17-19
Without the Resurrection, there is no power of Jesus to overcome sin and death. But, truly Christ is risen and we are a redeemed people! Now it is up to us to live out this amazing truth. To do so, we need to understand that when Christ comes again our bodies will also be resurrected and brought into heaven. Thus, our bodies play an integral part in our eternal value and meaning. To understand this value, as human beings, we must understand Jesus Christ. He is the one who takes our fallen human nature and does something wonderful with it. This is because God values our bodies much more than we do.
Our destiny is for us to be with God in heaven – but only as fully human, which necessarily means having both our bodies and souls present.
Why? Because God became man. This is a completely mind-blowing doctrine. God – infinite, omnipotent, all-loving, etc. – became one of us, out of love for us. He takes on our nature to redeem us and then Christ reveals to us what it means to be human – and part of understanding what it means to be human is found in Christ teaching us that our bodies are important. The body is important because without it we are not fully human.
Humans are made up of souls and bodies. The body isn’t just a vessel that captures the soul as if our souls need to be freed of them. Rather, it is part of what makes us human and helps reveal who God is and who we are. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. Big deal, you might think. But, it is. It is our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we that our nature is caught up into God, by our participation in God’s divine life. A new-found identity in Christ means we can no longer look at ourselves or others in the same way. This is why John Paul the Great quoted the following verse more than any other from Vatican II:
“Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”(Gaudium et Spes 22)
When God became man in the Incarnation, He didn’t lower His own divine nature, which is impossible – because God is unchangeable, rather He raise up our human nature higher.
The Incarnation teaches us, through the revelation of God, who we are meant to be. This then informs what we are to do. In today’s society we have reversed the order. We identify who we are with what we do. This is a lie. I am not what I do. I am who I am, based on my identity as a human made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed through Christ.
What does any of this have to do with the Resurrection? Well, once we know that our bodies have a special part to play in our lives both on this earth and in making us fully human – we can see that they to are part of Christ’s plan of salvation, just as Christ’s body was part of all of creations’ redemption (e.g., Christ’s suffering, death, Resurrection, etc).
Part of the plan of redemption of our bodies is that once Christ comes again, our bodies are raised up and reunited with our souls forever in heaven. This is why Christian tradition treats the body with respect. To do such things as flush the body down the drain is sacrilegious because of the sacred purpose of it.
St. Paul tells us about the resurrected body:
“There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.” 1 Cor 15:40-44
Based on the Scriptural evidence of the Resurrection of the body, the Church teaches us about this doctrine in the Catechism
997 What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.
998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”
999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”;but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body”:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. . . . What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . The dead will be raised imperishable. . . . For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.
1000 This “how” exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies: Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.
1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
More on the meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection from Fr. Barron and Mark Hart: