The Jews had some sort of belief that the bodies of the dead would rise again. Job consoled himself in the midst of his sufferings by the thought of the resurrection (Job xix. 25); so too the brothers Machabees (2 Mach. vii. 11); and Martha said to Jesus: “I know that my brother will rise again in the resurrection at the Last Day” (John xi. 24).
Christ on the Last Day will raise the bodies of all men from the dead, and unite them to the soul forever.
1. He often declared that He would raise the bodies of all men from the grave, and proved His power by miracles; this resurrection will be heralded by many signs in nature.
We proclaim in the Apostles Creed that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead; that is, He will call to life the bodies of those who are already dead, while for those who survive till that day such a change will take place in their bodies that in a moment they will die and awake again to a new life (1 Thess. iv. 16); those will arise who are in the grace of God as well as those who are in mortal sin (John v. 28; Matt. xxv. 31); and this resurrection will take place in a moment (1 Cor. xv. 52). Christ announced that He would raise the dead to life again: “The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment” (John v. 28, 29); on another occasion: “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the Last Day” (John vi. 55). Our Lord often compared death to sleep, e.g., when He said that the daughter of Jairus (Matt. ix. 24) and Lazarus (John xi. 11) were sleeping. In face of the fact of the resurrection death may well be called a sleep (1 Thess. iv. 13). The following miracles were performed by Christ in proof of His power to raise the dead; the raising of the daughter of Jairus in her own house, that of the son of the widow of Nairn before the gates of the city, and that of Lazarus from the grave itself. We might add His own glorious resurrection and that of His Virgin Mother. In very truth Christ might say of Himself: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John xi. 25). Many natural phenomena show that the idea of the resurrection is in harmony with the rest of nature; for instance, our own periods of rest and activity, the reawakening of spring after the winter sleep; the change in many insects of the larva into the pupa, and of the pupa again into the butterfly; the coming forth of the bird from the egg, the sprouting of the seed buried in the earth, and so on.
2. God will awake our bodies to life again to prove His justice, and to honor Our Redeemer.
If the soul only were rewarded, there would be a want of completeness; “for,” as Tertullian says, “there are many good works, such as fasting, chastity, martyrdom, which can be carried out in their perfection only in the body; hence it is right that the latter should share in the reward of the soul.” God’s justice demands that the body should take part in the triumph. Again, Tertullian reminds us that Our Saviour redeemed mankind body and soul. Had the body been unredeemed the devil would have secured a triumph by destroy ing it. Such a thought is unworthy. “By a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. xv. 21).
3. As to the state of our bodies after the resurrection, we have the following facts: (1). After the resurrection we shall have the same bodies as we now have. (2). The bodies of the just will be glorious and those of the wicked hideous. (3). All the risen bodies will be without defect and immortal.
We shall have the same bodies after the resurrection: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. xv. 53). This we learn also from the Athanasian Creed. Even Job knew it to be true: “I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God” (Job xix. 26); and one of the Machabean brothers, in the midst of his torments, addressed the tyrant thus as his limbs were being torn away: “These I have from heaven but for the laws of God I now despise them; because I hope to receive them again from Him” (2 Mach. vii. 11). While St. Perpetua and her fellow martyrs were being exposed to the vulgar gaze of the heathens, she addressed them thus: “Look well and mark now our faces, that you may know them again in the Day of Judgment;” and her words converted many of the bystanders. For this reason we rise in our bodies “that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done whether it be good or evil” (2 Cor. v. 10). It is not beyond God’s power to rejoin the scattered elements of our bodies; if He could make that which had no existence, He can replace that which already has had an existence. St. Thomas teaches us that just as our bodies remain the same bodies over periods of ten or twenty years, in which time the component elements have been renewed again and again, so the bodies of the risen will be the same, even supposing they are not composed of the same identical elements as before. It is the thought of the resurrection that makes Christians careful in the burial of the dead, and in their veneration of the relics of the saints. Our risen bodies will not be all alike. “We shall all rise again; but we shall not all be changed” (1 Cor. xv. 51). The bodies of the just will resemble the glorified body of Christ (Phil. iii. 21), and will have the following properties: they will be impassible (Apoc. xxi. 4), shining like the sun (Matt. xiii. 43), swift as thought, and capable of penetrating matter. The word spiritual is sometimes used to describe the risen body, because the latter will be quite subject to the spirit and freed from earthly concupiscence (Luke xx. 35). The beauty of the body will be in proportion to that of the soul (Rom. viii. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 41). The most wretched cripple, if he has lived a good life, will have a beautiful body; while one who has had every personal charm and lived a bad life, will rise again to be an object of aversion. The bodies of sinners will have to suffer, and will be bound hand and foot (Matt. xxii. 13). The risen bodies will be without any defect. The martyrs will recover their limbs, and their wounds, visible like Christ s, will be glorious and resplendent. The risen bodies will also have no trace of old age, sickness, or mutilation. The wicked will have their bodies also complete, but for punishment; for the more perfect the body is the more it can suffer. All the bodies of the risen will be immortal (1 Cor. xv. 42). Just as in paradise the fruit of the tree of life gave immortality to the body, so now the Blessed Sacrament in communion, for it is a pledge of the resurrection and of immortality (John vi. 55). The bodies of the damned are also immortal, but for their torment.
4. Belief in the resurrection is a great help to us; it con soles us in our sufferings, and comforts our relatives and friends when we come to die.
Job cheered himself with this reflection (Job xix. 25); and it was belief in the resurrection which gave the early Christians such courage and calm in the great persecutions. Christians who believe in the resurrection ought not to mourn for their dead like the heathen who have no hope (1 Thess. iv. 12). St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (258 A.D.), used to caution his flock against such excessive grief, lest the heathen should come to think that the Christians had no firm belief in the life to come. Hence he considered it unbecoming to wear mourning for those who were rejoicing before the throne of God. Those only should be mourned for who died in mortal sin.
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