And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Cardinal Kung emphasized the resurrection in one of his sermons just before his arrest in 1955: If we renounce our faith, we will disappear and there will not be a resurrection. If we are faithful, we will still disappear, but there will be a resurrection.” As bishop, Cardinal Kung would spend thirty-three years in captivity.
He linked faith and the resurrection. Also implicit in this is the virtue of hope.
Why did Bishop Kung do this? He foresaw in 1949 that the Communists were about to take over his diocese of Shanghai and his flock surely was in great trepidation. Reports had been coming in about the persecution of the Church in the north and of so many martyrs and he wanted to console and fortify his children. (There were one million faithful in Shanghai and surrounding diocesan cities at the time.) It was inevitable. The children were going to suffer horribly and his paternal heart was breaking.
God would give him five years to prepare his children for the onslaught. And the message was always the same. Pray and hope.
Hope in what? In the resurrection? Yes. And hope in eternal life.
By resurrection we are not simply referring to the body, which will rise in glory for the just, but to the soul that can never die. The soul will not rise from the dead, for it is an immortal spirit, but the body will.
Why does that matter? Is it not enough to be happy forever in spirit? Do we really need the body in the next life? Yes, we do! For perfect happiness we do. The separated souls in glory still long for completeness, for integrity (wholeness), and that can only happen with the glorious resurrection of the body. We are not angels.
But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world (Wisdom 2:24).
Death is outrageous. We are but dust and to dust we shall, for a time, return. Were it not for the Death of Christ, through which the second death could be destroyed, death would be beyond understanding. How could we understand sin and the measureless immensity of its insult to God, our Creator, were it not for the expiatory redemption of Christ? It is Jesus hanging on the Cross that tells us what sin is. It is Jesus Resurrected that tells us what the glory is that God intended for man from the beginning.
In a talk to American catechists, Pope Pius XII, said this: “Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin.”
Stephen Bullivant expresses well the insult sin is to the goodness of the Infinite Creator: “The reality, ubiquity and gravity of sin is at the very heart of the Christian message. Simply put, if we do not acknowledge our sins, then we fail to appreciate the One who (as our Holy Father is at pains to remind us) is even ‘greater than our sins’”.
“He can, as Alyosha puts it in The Brothers Karamazov, ‘forgive everything, forgive all and for all, because he himself gave his innocent blood for all and for everything’”. (Catholic Herald, February 4, 2016)
In this past Sunday’s Gospel Jesus warned His Apostles of the events to soon come surrounding His death. He had just corrected James and John (the Sons of Thunder) for asking for the highest seats in the kingdom to come and He was saddened, too, over the hesitation of the rich man who wanted to follow Him but did not want to give up his possessions. They did not understand and this pained the Sacred Heart. Then, for comfort, and to strengthen the Apostles for the temptations that lie ahead, Jesus said:
“‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: And after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.’ And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said. Now it came to pass, when he drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the way side, begging” (Luke 18:31-35).
With what detail, Our Lord spoke of His suffering to come: the scourging, particularly, shook Him! The soldiers were told by Pilate to (literally from the Greek) “give Him a licking.” A brutal scourging, Pilate thought, would satiate the Jewish leaders. The column for scourging was not high so the victim was bent over and chained to it. Then, after the back and hind legs were sufficiently flayed, they turned the victim over and lashed him in the front. Jesus could feel the pain beforehand, and the mockeries, the crowning with thorns especially, and the spittle. As we prepare for Lent, let us pray that we, unlike the disciples, may “[understand these things] that were said.” We had better for we live after the fact.
And, as we hope in the resurrection at the Last Day, for ourselves and our loved ones, let us look forward to the accidental bodily joys that will accompany the just:
Clarity: Radiance. The just shall sine like the stars, from within, from their own holiness in Christ, not from mere reflection. Too, the just shall enjoy integrity, perfect health, no sickness, no pain, no tears.
Subtlety: No material thing shall block our movement. Like Jesus, we shall pass through walls. Material things shall surrender their impenetrability and opaqueness to our luminosity. Something to look forward to? You bet!
Agility: The just shall move at the speed of light, even faster.
Impassibility: Nothing shall hurt the glorified body. It shall reign over the “New Earth” and all things shall serve it. There will be no hunger or thirst.
Without the Resurrection, as Saint Paul said, our Faith would be in vain. The Cross would be without meaning. He must be lifted up that He might lift us up: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up:That whosoever believeth in him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting” (John 3:14-15).
Have a graced-filled Lent!