The Spiritualization of the Body

by Edmond Lo

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!

First published on 2017-04-02.