11 November 2007 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Mc 7, 1-14; Psalm 17; 2 Thes 2,16 – 3,5; Luke 20, 27-38
The underlying topic of the readings today is the belief in the resurrection of the body. Scriptural texts support this belief: the 3rd Maccabee martyr professed, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life” (2 Mc 7, 14); the Book of Daniel mentioned that those who ‘sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake’ and Ezekiel had a vision of the rising of the dry bones. In the New Testament, we have Martha expressing this belief when Lazarus died (John 11, 24). In the Gospel today, Jesus explicitly defends the belief in the resurrection against the Sadduccees who did not believe in it. Thus, the belief of the resurrection is part of our Catholic faith, as we professed the Creed every Sunday.
How do we understand the resurrection of the body? What would be the characteristics of a resurrected body? When God created the universe in His own hands, all that He created was good and perfect. But sin corrupted this perfect creation. In the resurrection, the perfection and goodness of creation will be restored. Each person will still retain his or her identity as when they were on earth; but with an added feature: immortality.
But there are characteristics that distinguish the body of the saint from the damned. First, the saints will be impassable, meaning, they will not experience pain. The damned, on the other hand, will also have immortal life, but they will not be impassable: pain will penetrate their bodies (1 Cor 15, 42). In the resurrection of the body, there will be no physical disabilities or impairment. No deaf, lame or blind. No one will be terminally ill. No one will have the least suffering, except those in hell. Second, the saints will be able to be free from the slowness of motion; they can transport themselves quickly to wherever the soul pleases. Third, the body of the saint will be subjected totally to the soul to the extent that they will be like the soul. This is what Jesus manifested after the resurrection: Jesus, with his physical body, passed through material objects. And finally, we would all be brothers and sisters. Jesus said that the woman who had many husbands will no longer belong to anyone, and they would all be God’s children. Therefore, our parents, grandparents and great grandparents who passed away will be our brothers and sisters in the resurrection.
Is this belief practical? These are my personal answers. First, it gives meaning to all spiritual endeavors like preaching and faith itself. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Cor 15, 14-17). Second, it gives hope to victims of meaningless suffering. The rewards of the afterlife will greatly compensate the pain of the Maccabean martyrs and all those who died for the faith or for the sake of humanity. Finally, it gives reason for us to be good. To be good is not easy: there are temptations in every turn and we can count more failures than successes. What makes trying possible is the belief that our struggles are noticed by a loving God. No matter how we try, we cannot produce hope. The belief in the resurrection is therefore about hope generated by faith.