The Spiritualization of the Body

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Romans 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 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 dwelling in you.

John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33B-45

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, "Master, the one you love is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him." But some of them said, "Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?" So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Two ideas have crossed my mind as I reflect on the Mass readings of the 5th Sunday of Lent:

First, the Christian conviction that the human body will be resurrected on the last day is consistently taught throughout the Scriptures, both New Testament and Old. Such consistency speaks to the centrality and significance of this teaching in the Christian faith. It also explains St. Paul’s uncompromising position in defending resurrection: “But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1 Cor 15: 12-14). In this special season of Lent and Easter that celebrates Jesus’ passion and eventual triumph over death in the form of a glorious and resurrected body of agility, clarity, impassibility, and subtility, it comes as no surprise that resurrection is the common thread connecting the selected passages of Ezekiel, Romans, and John in this Sunday’s liturgy of the word (1 Cor 15:42-44, St. T. Aquinas, The Compendium of Theology, I.168).

Second, the hope of resurrection never ceases to trigger in us a deep yearning for the day when all of humanity will be freed from the life-long opposition between the body and the spirit – an opposition so painful and exasperating that St. Paul called it a “war”: “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” (Romans 7:23-24) Sweet and liberating is the realization that in the resurrection, the body, in its spiritualized form, will return to perfect unity and harmony with the spirit. According to St. John Paul II, spiritualization of the body “means not only that the spirit will dominate the body, but, I would say, that it will fully permeate the body… The resurrection will consist in the perfect participation of all that is physical in man in what is spiritual in him” (General Audience, December 9, 1981).

“Come, Lord Jesus!” or Maranatha! in Aramaic is the very last word of love uttered by the Church, portrayed as a bride in John’s apocalyptic vision, to her Beloved Groom in concluding the long history of salvation (Revelation 22:20). Together with the Church, let’s call out to the Groom, our Lord Jesus Christ: M-A-R-A-N-A-T-H-A! Come, Lord Jesus! We long for the day of the resurrection – the day our body, redeemed and spiritualized, returns to perfect unity and harmony with the spirit; the day God’s prophetic word in the beginning about marriage as husband and wife becoming one body is perfectly fulfilled in the union of Christ and his Church!

Posted: April 2, 2017

Edmond Lo

 
As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog: http://elodocuments.blogspot.com/


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