Preaching the Resurrection of the Body

Next Sunday’s RCIA option for the Gospel as well as the upcoming festivals of Eastertide offer a perfect opportunity to preach on the often-overlooked doctrine of the resurrection of the body.

While some of the articles of the creed are obscurely understood by many Catholics, the article on the resurrection of the body is unique in that it seems widely ignored and unacknowledged. Many believing and fervent Catholics seem not to know that the body is destined for resurrection. We could blame this on thinkers from Plato to Descartes–or we could simply manifest the revelation. I Corinthians 15, which we read in a series as the Sunday second readings a few weeks ago, is especially helpful.

It should not take much persuasion to make this doctrine compelling. The afterlife is our common destiny, and our bodies are so important to us that any physical infirmity is a true affliction. The resurrection matters. It is the meaning of Easter. It is worth bringing up again and again.

The benefits to believing in the resurrection of the body include the following:

-Belief in heaven is more concrete when it is seen as a place for an even more robust human life than we enjoy in this world, rather than as a shadowland. This means that hope, the anchor of the soul, has its hold in a realm that is rightly conceived as more real than this passing world.

-Moral theology makes more sense when we think of the body and soul as a unity called to holiness, with the body in particular a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

-“Hard” moral cases involving the principle of double effect are judged more prudently when our physical natures are seen as part of human intentionality. (A thought-provoking article on this point is Fr. Basil Cole, OP, “Is the Moral Species of Craniotomy a Direct Killing or a Saving of Life,” Nova et Vetera, 3 (2005): 689–702.)

-Liturgical actions and extraliturgical devotions become less casual when the sacrifice of our bodies is offered as “reasonable worship” (logikēn latreian) (Romans 12:1).

-Physical sufferings due to age, illness, and injury become bearable when seen in the light of the glory that is to reign in our bodies as well as our souls (Romans 8:18-39, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18).