The Veil was pulled back. The Paschal Mystery was consummated. Our Risen Lord “apokalypsed” (revealed) Eternity encompassing time for His disciples: “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? 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” (Luke 24:38-39). Then Jesus ate with them to show He still has and always will have a body.
The Resurrection of the Body is a central Christian dogma that is true, albeit rarely discussed. In fact, Great Books Professor Abigail Rine Favale rightly bemoans the fact that most of her Christian students do not believe they will receive their bodies, glorified, in the afterlife (cf. “Evangelical Gnosticism”, First Things, May 2018). Why? Why is a Christian dogma that was once clearly taught now so widely spurned?
James Tissot (1836-1902)
Perhaps it is because our earthly bodies are perceived by many as a mere shell or tool. Who would want a shell weighing them down in heaven?
This is why St. John Paul has given us not the theology of the person or of love or of marriage, but the Theology of the Body (TOB). He identified the old gnostic tendency to despise the flesh rearing its ugly head in modern thought. If unchecked, the trajectory of this Gnosticism lands the unsuspecting in such fallacies as gender identity and cohabitation….and the lack of belief in glorified bodies in heaven.
Firmly rooted in Scripture, St. John Paul speaks of our own “spiritualized” bodies in heaven, where all that is human will be permeated by the divine: “Participation in the inner life of God himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine, will then reach its peak…” (TOB 67:3). Far from being “weighed down” by our bodies, we will be free, body and soul in perfect union—free of temptation, free of discord, free of misunderstandings…and all of our powers—affectivity, intellect, will, and our bodies—all will be ordered for love (cf. TOB 67).
How can we remind the world that we can look forward to living with bodies perfected in heaven? In order to help recapture intrigue and belief in the afterlife as body-persons, the TOBET curriculum development team and I have devoted one of our curriculum’s lesson books to this topic. We hope to captivate the imagination of 6th Graders in our upcoming book, The Body and Heaven, whose unique teaching is based on St. John Paul’s third chapter of TOB.
I was privileged to get a personal glimpse of the promise of bodily resurrection on January 22, the night before my mother died. The veil was pulled back, ever so slightly, when Doris Ashour, who had refused any pain medication, obviously saw those who were precious to her—Jesus Himself and Mother Mary. She looked beyond the family gathered at her bedside, her eyes focused on things invisible to us, and her face was lit with an expression of sheer joy. She could no longer speak with the language of words, but the language of her body spoke the truth—the hope for the resurrection of the body.
Monica Ashour, M.Hum., M.T.S. is Executive Director and a founder of TOBET in Irving, Texas.
Copyright 2018 Monica Ashour