Glorious Potential: The Significance of the Resurrected Body

Continuing the discussion about the resurrection and Heaven, today we reflect on the writings of Paul.

What does the resurrection have to do with Theology of the Body? After all, TOB is mostly about sexuality, and there won’t be sex (in the sense of the act) in Heaven. Or, to put it another way, what does the resurrection have to do with me, in my own current life which is very much not Heaven?

Well, we know from the reflections on sin and our current situation that we’re not in Heaven yet, even though we have the Redeemer with us. We’re redeemed now, but we’re not perfected yet. Our body has its own fair share of imperfection, suffering, and even sinfulness. No one felt this pain more acutely than St. Paul. He calls the body perishable, weak, and dishonored. (1 Corinthians.) He reminds us that sin has subjected all of creation to the “slavery of corruption.” At the same time, our present situation, with all the sin and the brokenness and the pain, holds hidden in itself the seeds of hope – all of creation shares in our hope of redemption.

For all of creation awaits with longing the revelation of the children of God; creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord, but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan inwardly as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

The existence of the glorified Christ actually means something pretty fantastic for our plain old bodies as we know them. Christ expresses the full potential of the human person. If you want to know about the power of inspiration, just click on over to Pinterest. Sure, my cardboard box doesn’t seem that great now, but after looking at a few pins of the amazing toys and beautiful storage solutions I could make from the box, I’m rather pleased to have so many in the garage. Yes, our bodies seem pretty uninspiring at times – they get sick, they get old, they get tired, they don’t look the way we want, they misrepresent what we’re trying to say, they fight and they cry and they’re subject to all kinds of rogue emotions. But, but, but! This same body, with the grace of glory, could be unbreakable, never fatiguing, never betraying, perfectly communicating, enjoying, worshipping. It could walk through walls. It could run and not grow weary. It could live forever. God had all of this in mind when he created the first human body, and when he created mine.

A dog body doesn’t have all of this potential. A mountain doesn’t. A star doesn’t. A chimp doesn’t. All of us bear the imprint of Adam – we look like him, more or less, we think, we’re conscious of ourselves, we love. We bear the scars of his sin and we each come up with ever-creative ways to add to the human human sin-drama. But we also bear the imprint of Christ! Not perfectly, yet, but we are eternal like he is. We love like he does. We offer spiritual sacrifices like he does, we tell others about the Father like he does, we master and change the physical world like He does. (Priest, prophet, king.) Somehow, in our bodies, the same bodies we have now but glorified, we will be incorporated into the Holy Trinity. We will be brides of Christ.

At the final hour, the moment of judgment, when the trumpet sounds and we are changed in the blink of an eye, something radical is going to happen to my body, and to yours, God willing that we persevere in the faith.

What is sown is perishable. What is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised glorious. It is sown in weakness. It is raised full of power.     ~1 Cor 15

Are we going to return to the garden of Eden and become like Adam and Eve again? No! That would be going backward, undoing history, forgetting the whole long, sometimes convoluted but altogether wonderful story of salvation. Our new state will be, in John Paul’s words, a “new fullness.” (TOB 72.3) We have eaten of the tree of knowledge – we can’t go back to before we knew what good and evil were. But somehow, even the dishonest promises of the serpent will be fulfilled in spite of him, and in spite of the sin of our first parents: “You certainly will not die! Your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”

In this life, we know the body often as a limiting factor tying down the spirit. Our power of knowledge is limited by our limited time and energy, by miscommunication, by the arduous and often failing efforts to master science. Our spirit will know the truth freely in the resurrection. In this life, our will is weakened by fear for physical comfort and safety, by temptation of various pleasures; it is darkened by confusion about the real goals and the best means to achieve them. In the resurrection, our will we operate freely and perfectly in harmony with our minds and our bodies. Our body will be spiritualized in a way unknown in Eden, perfectly receptive to the spirit and showing its full potential without limits.

By the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to experience this spiritual body to a lesser extent even now.

In the next posts, we will explore the topic of continence for the Kingdom of Heaven. If the human person is meant for the gift of self in marriage, why would anyone choose not to marry? Why would God ask them to choose this? And what does it mean for the rest of us?

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