Bishop’s September Reflection: The Resurrection of the Body

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by Bishop Michael Duca

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

Most of us will recognize these opening words as the last line of the Apostles Creed. I remember from my youth that it was one of the longest prayers I had to memorize, but remembering it became easy as we prayed it when we prayed the rosary.

The Creeds of our Church – the Nicene Creed that we say together at Mass and the Apostles Creed – are proclamations of our most basic and important beliefs as Catholics. They hold us true to the original revelation of Jesus Christ as it has been handed down to us from Christ to the apostles, continuing on to us today.  Unfortunately we often rattle these creeds off at Mass with little thought, but they are a rich source of grace and meaning if we give some time to learn the full importance of each phrase.

Last month we celebrated the Assumption of Mary, the feast commemorating our belief that Mary at the moment of her death was immediately assumed into heaven, body and soul.  While we can understand why this honor was given to her as the Mother of God and the portal of our salvation at the moment of her death, we can draw hope from Mary as we are all promised, if we are faithful, the hope of resurrection and eternal life with God.

Reflecting on this brought me to one of the phrases of the Apostles Creed, “I believe in … the resurrection of the body and life everlasting” and why understanding this simple tenet of our faith is so important, especially in the world today.

As human beings we are body and soul, and the two together are important.  Our bodies are not just a burden to our spirit, they are an essential part of who we are as human beings.   To say we believe in the resurrection of the body is to directly reject the idea that when we die, we somehow become a spirit that is absorbed into God as a drop of water is absorbed into the ocean. This idea is what often leads people to scatter the remains of the deceased, but the Church teaches that if our bodies are to be cremated or not, we should be buried in one place to mark, “Here I lie waiting the unique resurrection of my body.”  I find this a wonder-filled and exciting belief because it means that in some way the totality of who I am, body and soul, will live forever with God.  Since it has been revealed by Jesus that we will be raised body and soul then I, Michael Duca, now Bishop of Shreveport (not sure there are miters in heaven, but probably not) will stand hopefully before God who will call my name for all eternity in love.

It also assumes that “all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel in death.” (Vigil Service for the Deceased)  We will be with the ones we love and it will be revealed how God is both a part of the love we share here on earth and the one Love we have always sought. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”  (St. Augustine)

I know there is always the question of our body’s corruption in the earth and how it can be resurrected, which of course is still a mystery to us. We do know that the body of Jesus when resurrected was a glorified body that allowed his disciples to recognize him, to eat with Jesus and to see the nail prints in his hands, while Jesus was also able to pass through locked doors. This in some ways prefigures what we can expect at our resurrection.

This teaching also leads us as Catholics to take our bodies seriously. Catholics, and other Christians at times, are accused of being suspicious of the body, seeing the body as not holy and at times even sinful in itself.  In fact the Church teaches that the body is good, it reveals who we are in relation to others and in relation to God who fashioned us.  When we respect our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and as reflections of the Body of Christ on earth, then we find joy and peace in our whole selves, body and soul.

This short tenet of our faith that we believe in the resurrection of the body is filled with meaning and a powerful statement of faith on how we are to live in the world awaiting our resurrection.  •

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