“Jesus Christ is risen today — Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day — Alleluia!” Such is the message we sing today — this day we call Easter. What makes this day “triumphant”? Two reasons. The first is this: Our sins are now wiped clean and we have the promise of Heaven if we live our lives in accordance to God’s word and in cooperation with His Grace. It’s not just that Jesus died for our sins that we find forgiveness…there were many “messianic figures” long before Jesus and in the time of Jesus. The difference is that he rose again from the dead while the others did not. St. Paul says “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins”…and then “we are the most pitiable people of all” (1 Cor. 15:17, 19). Easter is of such great importance that it is now at the head of our week! That is, Sunday is the Lord’s Day — EVERY Sunday is a memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection! But it is not just a day to remember but for us to live it and to experience him when we receive Him — Body, Blood, soul and Divinity in the Eucharist at Mass. Food of all foods.
Jesus’ Resurrected Body
The second reason we find Easter to be “triumphant” is that Jesus shows us what will happen to us at our resurrection. Each week at Mass when we recite the Creed, we say the words “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”. What does this mean? A lot! The Gospel writers and St. Paul have much to say about this. Let’s look at what they tell us.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was unrecognizable at first. Mary Magdalene thought he might be the gardener: “Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher (Jn 20:11-16).
In Mark, we see that the two men who walked along the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus because he was “in another form” (Mk 16:12). However, in both situations Jesus was clearly recognized by his voice. Notice how the two asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way?” (Lk 24:32).
As far as his physical body is concerned the apostles presumed him to be “a ghost” (Lk 24:37) because he appeared to them in the upper room “when the doors were locked” (Jn 21:19). With his resurrected body, Jesus could not be limited to time and space — but rather he could appear anywhere at will.
We see in his glorified body that he could be touched physically as he said to Thomas in the upper room: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side…” (Jn 20:27). Jesus showed that he could eat as well. We see two times when Jesus placed food into his mouth to eat. The first is in the upper room: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them” (Lk 24:39-43). The second was at the Sea of Tiberius: (See Jn 21:1-12). Notice in this passage, too, that the apostles did not recognize Jesus.
Our Own Resurrected Bodies
Here is where things get interesting. We, too, shall have resurrected and glorified bodies — just like Jesus! No doubt you want to know, how is this even possible? Now we turn a lot to St. Paul. In his first letter to the church at Corinth in Greece, Paul assures us, “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).
But how do we know that this will come to pass for each of us? Listen to St. John (who wrote the Book of Revelation with its wonderful visions) — Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead” (Rev. 1:4). Note the word “firstborn”…St. Paul calls Jesus “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Firstborn, firstfruits…First Jesus and then each and every one of us shall rise.
I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body
Here’s another question you may have…In what manner shall all of this come to pass? The church in the great city of Corinth asked the same thing of St. Paul in a letter: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” (1 Cor. 15: 35).
Here is his explanation in his return letter to them, written around the year A.D. 56. (It is the first letter that he wrote to them and so it bears the name of the First Letter to the Corinthians).
We all know that we start out in life with a human body — like a “kernel of wheat” as St. Paul calls it (verse 37). He adds that “what you sow is not brought to life unless it dies” (v. 36) and he makes it clear, “so also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible” (v. 42) which means that once our body dies and the soul goes to God for immediate judgment (what the Church calls the ‘particular judgment’) it (the soul) later reunites with our resurrected glorified bodies in order to go on living “in Christ”. It is a process we must go through — “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (v. 42).
St. Paul continues, “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (v. 51-52).
It is the Holy Spirit who will accomplish all of this. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11) and “he will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Phil. 3:21). “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: 44) but let’s recall that our spiritual bodies will be very capable of being touched, of having various experiences through our five senses, and of eating — although we will not need to eat. “We shall bear the image of the heavenly one” (1 Cor. 15:49).
The Purpose of All of This
So…we go through all of this just to be able to sit upon a cloud in heaven and to sing Alleluia for all eternity? “By no means!” (Rm. 11:1).
We know that in this life there is sin, sickness, suffering, death, corruption, etc. All of these are considered as enemies of ours. For anyone born before 1970, we were brought up with the Baltimore Catechism in order to learn the Faith. Question number six asks this: “Why did God make you?” The answer that all Catholics had to learn was this: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next”.
The Life of the World to Come
Let’s continue with St. Paul. These enemies prevent us from living the life that God had intended and created us for…which is the fullness of life. When Jesus “comes again in glory” (from the Nicene Creed), “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15: 24-26) and everything must be “subject to him (Jesus) (1 Cor. 15:28). However, God will not destroy us or the earth because at the creation of the world God declared the world to be “good” and the creation of man and woman as “very good” (see Genesis 1:25, 31). Therefore he will not destroy that which is good. Rather, it is John in his Book of Revelation who takes over here and shares this vision as God himself commanded him to do.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) — but this does not mean that the earth as we now know it will be destroyed but only renewed. He also writes, “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2). Going further John says, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]” (v. 3).
The “new Jerusalem” he sees in the heavenly vision is a symbol of the Church. God will “dominate” us but not in the sense of a strict overlord. The word “dominate” is from Latin…”Dominus” which means “filled with God”. This “new Jerusalem” will be restored and elevated and know the Lordship of God when Christ shall be all in all. It is God’s promise to us: “If we have died with him (in Baptism) we shall also rise with him” (1 Tim 2:11-12)….”we shall also reign with him”. From there, in the “new Jerusalem” we shall find that “the economical life, the political life, the sporting life, the entertainment life, the transportation life — all will become radiant with the presence of God” (according to Bishop Robert Baron in his video on the Book of Revelation). So, yes, there is baseball in Heaven! But the most important thing to understand from this is that all of us will experience our own resurrection from the dead and it will most certainly be a physical resurrection. What joyous news!!! Will we recognize our loved ones there? Yes…it may take a bit as it took the apostles and others to recognize Jesus in his resurrected body, but as St. Paul says, “Star differs from star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:41) for there are different gifts of the Holy Spirit.
For an interesting presentation of what our glorified bodies may (or may not) look like, check out (the late) Robin Williams’ 1988 movie, What Dreams May Come:
Happy Easter to each and every one of you!
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