I was very pleasantly surprised to hear a homily on the ‘Resurrection of the Body’ by the parish priest at the Easter vigil I attended. Why should this be surprising, when every time we pray the Creed we say those very words: “I believe in the resurrection of the body”? Well, precisely because as no one knows what form this resurrection of our bodies will take, it is often more comfortable to ignore it and ‘brush it under the carpet’ so to speak. We see what happens to our earthly bodies; they corrupt, they turn to dust, so we ask ourselves, how can they be made new, beautiful, unmarked by ageing or illness?
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us some clues. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Like Our Blessed Lord, we too must take up our daily crosses, to suffer and die too. But we know that we are immortal – God has created us to ‘be happy with Him forever’- we have immortal souls and the promise that one day they will be reunited to our bodies ‘on the last day’. Although at first Jesus’s disciples did not recognise Him – perhaps because of the aura around Him – once Jesus appeared among them and they heard His voice, they knew it was the Lord. They saw His beloved glorious face, somehow different, but also the same, and their love and joy was immense. Thomas needed to even place his hands in the wounds of Our Blessed Lord’s hands and side to believe, provoking those beautiful words of Jesus, words which should warm all our hearts, we who live by faith: “Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed”. (John 20:29)
We have His word that He goes to prepare a ‘place‘ for us: “And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be”. (John 14:3)
Let us remain faithful and follow Our Blessed Lord with love and hope in our hearts. He Who has redeemed us has prepared wonderful things for ‘those that serve Him’. All honour and glory to God, now and forever.
This is the teaching from ‘Catholic Answers’ on the ‘Resurrection of the Body’:
“The Bible tells us that when Jesus returns to earth, he will physically raise all those who have died, giving them back the bodies they lost at death.
These will be the same bodies people had in earthly life—but our resurrection bodies will not die and, for the righteous, they will be transformed into a glorified state, freed from suffering and pain, and enabled to do many of the amazing things Jesus could do with his glorified body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:35–44, 1 John 3:2).
The resurrection of the body is an essential Christian doctrine, as the apostle Paul declares: “[I]f the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor. 15:13–18).
Because, as Paul tells us, the Christian faith cannot exist without this doctrine, it has been infallibly defined by the Church. It is included in the three infallible professions of faith—the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed—and has been solemnly, infallibly taught by ecumenical councils.
The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), infallibly defined that at the second coming Jesus “will judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad [Rom. 2:6–11]” (constitution 1).
Most recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterated this long-defined teaching, stating, “‘We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess’ (Council of Lyons II). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42–44)” (CCC 1017).
As the following quotes from the Church Fathers show, this has been the historic teaching of the Christian faith on the matter since the very beginning.”
Pope Clement I
“Let us consider, beloved, how the Master is continually proving to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which he has made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstling, by raising him from the dead. Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which is taking place seasonally. Day and night make known the resurrection to us. The night sleeps, the day arises. Consider the plants that grow. How and in what manner does the sowing take place? The sower went forth and cast each of the seeds onto the ground; and they fall to the ground, parched and bare, where they decay. Then from their decay the greatness of the master’s providence raises them up, and from the one grain more grow and bring forth fruit” (Letter to the Corinthians 24:1–6 [A.D. 80]).
“Let none of you say that this flesh is not judged and does not rise again. Just think: In what state were you saved, and in what state did you recover your [spiritual] sight, if not in the flesh? In the same manner, as you were called in the flesh, so you shall come in the flesh. If Christ, the Lord who saved us, though he was originally spirit, became flesh and in this state called us, so also shall we receive our reward in the flesh. Let us, therefore, love one another, so that we may all come into the kingdom of God” (Second Clement 9:1–6 [A.D. 150]).
“The prophets have proclaimed his [Christ’s] two comings. One, indeed, which has already taken place, was that of a dishonored and suffering man. The second will take place when, in accord with prophecy, he shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality, but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire along with the evil demons” (First Apology 52 [A.D. 151]).
“Indeed, God calls even the body to resurrection and promises it everlasting life. When he promises to save the man, he thereby makes his promise to the flesh. What is man but a rational living being composed of soul and body? Is the soul by itself a man? No, it is but the soul of a man. Can the body be called a man? No, it can but be called the body of a man. If, then, neither of these is by itself a man, but that which is composed of the two together is called a man, and if God has called man to life and resurrection, he has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body” (The Resurrection 8 [A.D. 153]).
Tatian the Syrian
“We believe that there will be a resurrection of bodies after the consummation of all things” (Address to the Greeks 155 [A.D. 170]).
Theophilus of Antioch
“God will raise up your flesh immortal with your soul; and then, having become immortal, you shall see the immortal, if you will believe in him now; and then you will realize that you have spoken against him unjustly. But you do not believe that the dead will be raised. When it happens, then you will believe, whether you want to or not; but unless you believe now, your faith then will be reckoned as unbelief” (To Autolycus 1:7–8 [A.D. 181]).
“For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in . . . the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess him, and that he may make just judgment of them all” (Against Heresies 1:10:1–4 [A.D. 189]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
“This body shall be raised, not remaining weak as it is now, but this same body shall be raised. By putting on incorruption, it shall be altered, as iron blending with fire becomes fire—or rather, in a manner the Lord who raises us knows. However it will be, this body shall be raised, but it shall not remain such as it is. Rather, it shall abide as an eternal body. It shall no longer require for its life such nourishment as now, nor shall it require a ladder for its ascent; for it shall be made a spiritual body, a marvelous thing, such as we have not the ability to describe” (Catechetical Lectures 18:18 [A.D. 350]).
“Perish the thought that the omnipotence of the Creator is unable, for the raising of our bodies and for the restoring of them to life, to recall all [their] parts, which were consumed by beasts or by fire, or which disintegrated into dust or ashes, or were melted away into a fluid, or were evaporated away in vapors” (The City of God 22:20:1 [A.D. 419]).
“God, the wonderful and inexpressible Artisan, will, with a wonderful and inexpressible speed, restore our flesh from the whole of the material of which it was constituted, and it will make no difference to its reconstruction whether hairs go back to hairs and nails go back to nails, or whatever of these had perished be changed to flesh and be assigned to other parts of the body, while the providence of the Artisan will take care that nothing unseemly result” (Handbook of Faith, Hope, and Charity 23:89 [A.D. 421])