In Advent, while we think back to 2,000+ years ago when our Savior was born, we also think ahead to our future. We turn our gaze to the second coming of Christ, to our mortality, and to the judgment day after our death.
Human beings are so unique – a combination of the flesh and the spiritual, the material and the infinite. We exist in space and time, but we were made for a destination that is outside space and time. When we think of this ultimate destination – that we were made for the glory of Heaven – we have to take a hard look at the purpose of our bodies: temples of the Holy Spirit, unique and unrepeatable, in need of redemption. In the Eucharist and through our Baptism, God dwells in our bodies, and therefore we are meant to glorify him and reflect his love through our flesh.
“The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” TOB February 20, 1980
The body is a big deal. Your body matters, even after death! Have you ever paid attention to the creed we say on Sundays where we recite, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”? The Apostles creed makes it even clearer: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Let’s think about what this means for a minute. On the last day, instead of being thrown out, our bodies will be raised up (John 6:40). “That’s why it’s a big deal to bury those who have died – because their lives mattered and continue to matter. Death doesn’t end the story.” (Sr. Marie Veritas, SV, in Beautiful Mercy pg. 80)
Sometimes we have people tell us that our body is just on loan, a temporary dwelling. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Your body is inextricably connected to your soul, and will be raised and transformed in the Second Coming. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing beyond the love and mercy of Jesus, and he wants the whole you – including your eyes, nose, ears, and the way your hair does that funny thing is the morning – to be transformed, purified, and glorified with him forever in heaven. When we really believe this, we live differently, because we see that our bodies are not shed like snakeskin in death. Rather, in death, our bodies, separated from our souls in the ultimate poverty and powerlessness, await Someone who will come and bring this body back to life.” (Sr. Marie Veritas, SV, in Beautiful Mercy pgs. 81-82)
Remember that your body is meant for heaven, to be resurrected one day. The soul separated from the body means death. Heaven is not being free from the prison of our bodies, but setting our bodies free from the decay of sin.
“The truth about man’s destiny ‘cannot be understood as a state of the soul alone, separated from the body, but must be understood as the definitively and perfectly “integrated” state of man brought by a [perfect] union of the soul with the body.’” (Theology of the Body, 66:6)
So while we wait in joyful hope of the coming of our king, let us not forget what that coming means, and the part that our bodies play. Take care of your body in addition to taking care of your soul. Pray for those who have gone before us. Treat those who are suffering or on their deathbed with the dignity that their body/soul deserves. Visit the graves of loved ones who have passed away.
God is God of the living. The last thing to be destroyed will be death. In this winter time of darkness where the days are short and the night is long, we look to Christ, the light of the world, to one day bring our bodies to fulfillment.