VERBUM DOMINI

Dying to Resurrect

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I celebrate a lot of funerals. Gathered in the sacristy with the servers (usually kids), we pray thanking God for the gift of the resurrection and asking him to increase the faith of those who mourn. Faith in the resurrection is powerful. It changes everything. It changes the way people live. It changes the way people die. It changes the way people deal with death.

This weekend we have a dramatic example of faith in the resurrection (2Macc 7:1-2, 9-14). We hear of seven brothers who “were arrested and tortured…to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.” The death of three of these brothers is recounted in the first reading. Each one cites his faith in the resurrection as the source of his strength: “It was from Heaven that I received these [limbs]; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.” Faith in the resurrection enabled these brothers to view every harm, even separation from the body, as merely temporary.

Notice, these martyrs do not express a hope in a merely spiritual reward. Perhaps we are accustomed to thinking of the afterlife only in such terms. But these brothers look beyond heaven. They look forward to being fully embodied again, to receiving their limbs again. They are looking forward to the new creation. Their hope is focused on the end of the end, which is the new beginning: the resurrection.

We are meant to have bodies. Our bodies are not shells or prisons for our souls. We don’t think about it much, but our faith tells us that at some point, despite being separated from them by death, we will regain our bodies: the body “is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1Cor 15:42-44). In the resurrection, the body is fulfilled. In the resurrection the body becomes what it was always meant to be: the outward expression of an eternal glorified soul.

In our Gospel this weekend (Lk 20:27-38), Jesus tells us “those who are deemed worthy to attain to…the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” The absence of marriage at the resurrection is not a deficiency in God’s plan. Rather, it is a sign of the fulfillment of all things. Marriage is necessary for the creation of life. At the resurrection, life is fulfilled. Creation is complete. Looking forward to this completion will change the way we live. It will change the way we die.