On the Necessity of the Resurection

We have now come through the long lonely days of Lent to celebrate new life in Easter.
So now what?
Lent is the spiritual boot camp where we are training our souls towards greater holiness. We concentrate on the sacrificial love of God and meditate on his Passion on the cross. Catholics have many devotions to the suffering of Our Lord. Sometimes we get accused of being morbidly obsessed with guilt and suffering. And while it is fundamentally necessary to enter into the cross, the story does not stop there.
The cross must end with Resurrection.
This is difficult for many of us. None of us have experienced the full Resurrection. But all of us have suffered in this world. The cross feels more tangible to us than the Glorified Body awaiting us. As Fr. Benedict Groeschel once said, “I don’t know what it’s like to rise from the dead. But I’ve been to Calvary several times in my life already.”
It takes no faith to believe that we will suffer in this world. The faith comes in believing that the suffering end. But unlike Buddhists who believe that the most we can hope for is simply an end to our pain, we Christians are promised a whole new life.
When Christ rose from the dead, it was not merely a resuscitation. Death is the separation of the body and the soul. A resuscitation is when the soul is reunited with the mortal body. We see this all the time on medical TV shows where they do CPR. And it is also what occurred with Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son. Jesus raised those last three people from the dead and their souls were reunited with their bodies. But those were not Resurrections, they were resuscitations.
What is the difference?
In a resuscitation, the reunion of body and soul is temporary because eventually the mortal body will get old, sick, and die. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son all eventually succumbed to death.
But Jesus was not resuscitated. He Resurrected.
Do not think of the Resurrection as merely coming back to life. If all we have here is a reanimated corpse, then it would almost sounds like Jesus is the original zombie. But that is not what we have with Jesus. The Resurrection is a transformation.
Think about the Disney cartoon Pinocchio or Beauty and Beast. In both cases, the hero dies. But they do not simply come back to life in their imperfect form, be it as a wooden child or a hideous monster. Instead, they are transformed completely in something else. And in the fairy tales, they say that will live happily ever after. Now you might dismiss this as a wishful fantasy. But it is the promise of Christ: we are promised the Resurrection of the Glorified Body.
What is this new, Glorified Body like?
We are never given a full description of it is like. We have hints at it from the Gospels. The Risen Jesus can change His appearance, walk through walls, appear and disappear at will. This body is free from the corruption of sin and death. Sometimes my students ask questions about whether Jesus will be reborn before the end and will He come and die on the cross again. The answer is no. Jesus is already Incarnated. There is no need of reincarnation. His body is pure and perfect.
And this body is what is waiting for each one of the faithful at the end.
A human being is defined by Aristotle as the rational animal. We are a union of body and soul. Sometimes we think like Plato did and believe that we are souls trapped in prisons we call bodies. The Gnostic heretics believed this. But this ignores the reality that we are not irrational animals like the beasts nor are we purely spiritual like the angels. We are both. If we are not, we are not fully human.
This is why there must be a Resurrection. If after death our souls went to Heaven and our bodies rotted in the Earth, there would still be something missing. That isn’t to say that the souls in Heaven are unhappy. But the souls in Heaven are not fully human. Perhaps this is where people came up with the idea that we become angels when we die.
Catholic teaching is very clear: angels are a different species than humans. We do not become another species after death. God made us human and we are forever meant to be human. But human beings are, by definition, bodily creatures.
But how horrible would it be to live forever in the bodies we have now. Buddha figured that out. Hindus believe that we are eternally dying and reincarnating. The Buddha looked at that perpetual experience of living in a mortal body and concluded that to live is to suffer. Buddha’s conclusion was to prevent reincarnation by extinguishing your soul so that you cease to exist.
If we were stuck on a perpetual cycle of reincarnation, Buddha would be correct. An eternity in the mortal body would be a kind of hell.
Perhaps this is why God drove man out of the Garden of Eden after eating from the Tree of Knowledge and prevented them from eating from the Tree of Life. Perhaps He was not punishing, but protecting.
Imagine I said to you that I would grant you immortality. But the tradeoff is that you would be forever in the condition you are right now. So if your leg is broken it would remain broken forever. If you were overweight, you would be overweight forever. If you were experiencing depression, you would be depressed forever. I would imagine most of us would wait until we were rid of those imperfections and sicknesses before we embraced immortality. I would also imagine that we would find it difficult to find a perfect moment to choose.
After the fall, man was broken. To be given immortality in that broken state would have been a damnation. We need something free from all of the pain and suffering and death to receive perfect immortality. As Christ says, “No one puts new wine into old wine skins.” (Mark 2:22) Our mortal bodies are too imperfect to receive everlasting life.
We need the transformation of the Resurrection. And it is only in this state of perfection, both of the soul and the body, that we can truly live happily ever after.

Copyright 2016, W. L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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