The Resurrection of the Body by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her." Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out 'Lord', the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and his is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
During His last days in Jerusalem, Our Lord encounters several traps set for Him by the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In most instances - example, regarding authority (Lk 20:1-8), divorce (Mt 19:3-9) and taxes (Lk 20:21-25) - the questioners want Our Lord to commit to one school of thought or the other. They want to ensnare Him in their theological battles. But He avoids their traps with answers that transcend their quarrels and thus do not answer directly.
When the Sadducees ask about the resurrection of the dead, however, the situation is different. As the Gospels make clear, He responds not only directly but also forcefully. He cites the authority of Moses: "That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bust". (Lk 20:37) And He accuses the scholars of Scripture of error: "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God." (Mt 22:29) "You are greatly misled." (Mk 12:27) Thus does Our Lord strongly confirm what we profess every Sunday: the resurrection of the dead.
Now, this has always been a difficult teaching. Centuries ago, St. Augustine observed, "On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body." So also today, although people may oppose other teachings more, they certainly do not understand or appreciate the resurrection of the body.
By "resurrection" we mean a physical one, of course. It is not just that we will rise again in the sense of living on in people's memories or in monuments of stone. Our bodies - the same body by which you are reading this . . . or dozing off - those bodies will be raised. And this is only just. The body is not a mere instrument through which the soul functions. It is rather, part of who we are and therefore will be part of again in eternity. Since our bodies have participated with our souls in doing good or in doing evil, they deserve to receive also either reward or punishment on the last day.
But let's focus on the rewards - God's desire for us. The body raised and reunited with our souls in heaven will be a glorified body. There will be no defect or flaw. Our bodies will be made perfect with the beauty that God intends for each of us. The body is destined for eternal glory. It is only by deliberate rejection of God that it would receive suffering instead.
From the teaching on the body's eternal end arise several requirements for life now. After all, we should always live in light of our final goal. Our resurrection calls to mind the respect - indeed, reverence - with which we should treat the body (ours and others') here and now. What God has destined for glory ought not be neglected, abused or treated as a plaything - which is precisely how our culture treats the body.
On the contrary, we invest our bodies in our faith and worship; we reverence the body even in death. We fast and feast and kneel and genuflect and make the sign of the cross. Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to such practices as "training for the resurrection." A good way for us to think of the body - and indeed the entirety of the Catholic life.
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