Sunday, November 7, 2010

On the resurrection of the flesh, November 7th

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
November 7th, 2010
Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus…

When an architect builds a house, he must consider every angle and every board in relation to the final product he is trying to accomplish. And, if even for a moment, he should lose sight of his goal (which is the finished house), the angle or wall will be out of place and, perhaps, the whole structure will collapse. Moreover, though the work is difficult at times, the architect finds great encouragement in thinking about how great the house will be when it is finally completed – thinking of the goal, he is able to persevere.
I think that there is an analogy between the work of the architect and the Christian life – we Christians must be constantly thinking about our goal, we must be constantly thinking and speaking about heaven! Perhaps one of the reasons we are sometimes not as joyful and as happy as we would like to be is this – we are not thinking often enough about life everlasting. The mere thought of heaven brings joy in the midst of difficulty and sorrow; and, as we keep our eyes on the prize that awaits us, we are able to persevere through all trials and sufferings.

It may be that we do not think of heaven as often as we should because we often have too small an image of what heaven will be like – many think of heaven as disembodied souls just floating around in the clouds, not doing much; sure, we are with God, but we are just floating there. If you tell this to a child, the boy or girl will tell you that that sounds pretty boring! And the child is right!
Heaven will not be just floating around as a separated spirit – we will not be angels. We will be human beings and, in the last day at the resurrection of the dead, we will have our bodies returned to us. We will have our bodies in heaven! These very bodies, this flesh which dies and is buried and corrupts; we will have this very flesh returned to us in the general resurrection! It is too great for us to imagine – but we must try to imagine it, we must think about it, and we must think of heaven in concrete terms; we are humans, that is how we have to think.

The brothers in 2 Maccabees give us a great witness to this hope in the resurrection. The one is so convinced that he sticks out his hands and tongue and says, “Go ahead and cut these off, destroy my body as you like; for God will one day restore these very hands and this very body to me, in the resurrection of the flesh!” The thought of the resurrection gave the brothers the strength to persevere and even to rejoice in the midst of intense suffering and persecution.
But many “learned” scholars today will come up with all sorts of objections to the resurrection of the body. 1,500 years ago, St. Augustine said , “On no other point does the Christian faith suffer more opposition, than on the resurrection of the body.” It is true today as well; many will admit that the soul lives on, but the world will yet deny that this very body will rise glorious and renewed.
The objections which some will make in the modern day to the resurrection remind me of the Sadducees’ objection in today's Gospel. These men were considered among the wisest and most learned in all of Israel, and they come to Christ with a very long and complicated objection – did you notice that it took them several verses to explain the intricate problem they had thought up? And yet, almost with a single word, with only a sentence, Christ is able to refute their objection and show them to be fools. The Sadducees were indeed fools, and so are all who doubt the resurrection of the body.
This is what we must say today to any and all objections against the truth of the resurrection – God created the whole world out of nothing, surely he can give us our bodies back at the end of time. If God has the power to create the universe, surely he can figure out whose body goes to whom and which part goes to which person. For God, all things are possible; he has promised and he will do it.

In any case, let us say this: If the dead are not raised, then neither has Christ been raised from the dead. And if Christ has not been raised, then his body is still in a tomb somewhere; and he is dead. But if Christ Jesus is dead, then our faith is in vain and hope is for nothing – if Christ is still dead, then all we do here in the church is worthless, we may as well all go home! But, alas, Christ has been raised and, by his power as God and even in a mysterious way through the power granted him as man, he will raise up even our bodies to share in the glories of his own resurrection. For those who hope in him, the Lord Jesus will indeed make us co-heirs with himself in life everlasting.