This Saturday, August 15, we celebrate the beautiful
feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the fullness of life of
heaven. That fullness of life is not just her soul but the fullness of her
being, body and soul. Mary now participates fully in Jesus’ triumph over death
by enjoying fully the resurrection of her body.
This is also what we hope
for: complete, eternal, total life for our full being, body and soul.
Christians do not believe solely in an immortal soul, but rather in the
resurrection of the body.
Now this is a more
difficult belief than merely believing in the immortality of the soul. Because
the soul is so amorphous, intangible, even a bit spooky, it is rather easy to
imagine that it perdures and continues on after death. That is an easy one.
But that is not what we
profess in the Creed. We believe instead in “the resurrection of the body,” as
we state each Sunday. Since we all know that bodies decay, belief in the
resurrection of the dead is more challenging than mere belief in the
immortality of the soul. This difficulty is hardly new. St. Paul dealt with
this issue of the resurrection of the dead in the 15th chapter of
his first letter to the Corinthians, in response to those who pooh-poohed
belief in the resurrection. I recommend you read it.
The analogy St. Paul uses
is of planting a seed. What grows is not a giant seed, but a plant somehow
intimately connected to that seed. If you plant an acorn, you don’t get a giant
acorn but rather an oak. There is an intimate connection, but they are not the
same. So our material body dies and disintegrates, and what will be raised is
not another material body but rather a spiritual body no longer subject to
decay nor infirmity nor death.
What will that be like?
After the resurrection will I still be overweight? Bald? Needing glasses? Will
you still recognize my resurrected body as me, as the disciples (with some
hesitation) recognized the Risen Jesus? Frankly we don’t know. And most
probably we cannot know because we do not have the categories or vocabulary to
describe this reality. We do know that it will be ME, not some amorphous field
of energy, but the fullness of my individual personhood. That is what the
resurrection of the body is all about.
Mary – by a special favor
of her Son – already enjoys the resurrection of her body. She and Jesus are
literally face to face in love. The rest of us will also enjoy the resurrection
of our bodies, but we have to wait till the consummation of time to experience
that. So in the meantime we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven as a sign
and foretaste of what we hope to enjoy for eternity. Please join us to
celebrate this Feast at 9 a.m. next Saturday, August 15. While the Assumption
is certainly a very holy day, this year, because it falls on a Saturday, it is
not a holy day of obligation.