Article 84 — Catechism of the Catholic Church Series Paragraphs 988-1004 RESURRECTION OF THE BODY When family members or friends complain about growing older and acquiring new, unwanted disabilities or infirmities, remind them that such struggles help make our Christian belief in the resurrection of the body something to look forward to all the more. The Catechism explains that the “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body will come to life again” (ccc 990). But what exactly does this mean?
What it does not mean is that our bodies will be as they are on earth with their various imperfections, deformities or age-related physical or mental weaknesses. What it does mean is that “our resurrection, like Christ’s, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity” (ccc 989). As St. Paul puts it, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” ( Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thes 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11).
For more than 20 centuries, the full weight of our Christian faith has rested securely on the personal resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Generations have again and again weighed the evidence and paid the tribute of their faith to this teaching of the Church. Unanimously, they have proclaimed their hopes for their own personal resurrection in glory in this article of the Apostles Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Yet, with St. Paul, they know how vain and futile these hopes are if Christ had not risen. With St. Paul, we, too, have no delusions: “if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” ( 1 Cor 14:15). Indeed, if we have nothing to hope for but this life, we are in the worst of predicaments. But, as St. Paul adds: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” ( 1 Cor 14:20-22).
Christ’s resurrection followed from his brutal crucifixion. Good Friday made the Apostles and disciples timid, helpless, fleeing followers; but, Easter Sunday transformed them into fearless, powerful “other Christs.” Soon after, the Resurrected Christ sent them to the ends of the earth to preach Christ and to lay down their lives in witness to the truth of his words when he proclaimed of himself: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die” ( Jn 11:25-26).
The Apostles also found strength to shed their blood for their faith from the Holy Eucharist, of which Christ said: “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day” ( Jn 6:55). Such was the faith of Christ’s first followers; such is our faith! We believe that we, too, shall rise glorious and immortal to join our Lord
and his Blessed Mother on the last day!
What does resurrection of the body mean? It means to come back to life again. We do not say “resurrection of the soul,” for the soul does not die. The soul is immortal; only the body dies. On the last day, our body will come back to life; it will be reunited to our soul, which gives our body life.
Before, during and after Jesus’ life on earth, individuals and groups, such as the Sadducees, challenged those, such as the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection. The Catechism tells us that “Christian faith in the resurrection has [been] met with incomprehension and opposition [as well]” (ccc 996). How is it possible that our dead bodies might rise to life again? The Catechism explains: “Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who is not God of the dead, but of the living” (ccc 993). Nonetheless, as quoted in the Catechism, the fourth century bishoptheologian St. Augustine observes: “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body” (ccc 996).
How do the dead rise? The Catechism explains: “In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection” (ccc 997).
Who will rise? The Catechism continues: All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (ccc 998).
How are the dead raised? With St. Paul ( 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42, 52, 53), the Catechism teaches: “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable … The dead will be raised imperishable … For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality” (ccc 999).
This section of the Catechism ends with a compelling analogy from second century Father of the Church, St. Irenaeus: “Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection” (ccc 1000).
Father Hillier serves as Director of the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Censor Librorum and oversees the Office for Personswith Disabilities