By TAMI QUIGLEY
What happens to us after death? Do we have our bodies or does just our spirit live on? Did Jesus rise bodily?
Questions such as these were the focus of “The Resurrection of the Body,” the latest session in the diocesan Office of Adult Formation’s series “Apologetics Forum: The Catholic Faith Explained.”
“At the hour of death think of the immense grace God will shower on that person. No one wants our salvation more than God,” presenter Father Daniel Kravatz said during the evening session May 3 at Sacred Heart, Palmerton. Father Kravatz is assistant pastor of St. Anne, Bethlehem.
Rick Dooley, assistant director of the Office of Adult Formation, welcomed those gathered.
Offering some background information on the topic, Father Kravatz said most Jewish people believe in resurrection, as “the belief was there before Jesus entered the world.” But there was still some opposition to the belief during Jesus’ time on earth.
“What do we mean when we talk about the resurrection of the body?” Father Kravatz asked.
“As Catholics, it’s the resurrection of the flesh. On the last day, the flesh will rise and meet the soul. The flesh will be glorified, but it will be flesh,” he said, and look similar to what we look like when alive.
Father Kravatz said the first judgement happens after we die, when we go to heaven, purgatory or hell. The resurrection of the body happens at the second judgement – also called the general judgement – when Jesus returns “to separate the sheep from the goats.”
“This emphasizes what we do on this Earth matters,” Father Kravatz said. “This is what we mean when we talk of the general resurrection. Everyone will rise from the dead.
“Our resurrection is only possible because of Jesus’ resurrection.”
“Jesus became man so that many may become like God,” Father Kravatz said.
He said Jesus’ resurrection was contentious, citing, for example, how Thomas doubted him. Some people still think it was some sort of spiritual resurrection.
“In Scripture, Jesus makes it abundantly clear he has risen in the flesh.”
Father Kravatz said there are four main characteristics of Jesus’ resurrection. “It’s the same body but glorified. There was a light about him – even his closest friends didn’t recognize him at first.”
“There’s an almost supernatural agility – Jesus goes where he wants,” Father Kravatz said, noting, for example, how the disciples were in a locked room and Jesus appears.
Father Kravatz also spoke of the “subtlety” of Jesus’ resurrection accounts. “The two disciples on the Road to Emmaus didn’t recognize him until he revealed himself to them.”
“There’s also impassibility – Jesus’ body didn’t decay anymore.”
Father Kravatz also spoke of the miracles of Jesus raising people from the dead, such as Lazarus.
“What is death? It’s the separation of the soul from the body,” Father Kravatz said, noting this not the medical but rather philosophical definition.
“The soul leaves and the body begins to decay. The soul is what gives the body life,” he said. “The soul goes to meet God and waits for reunification with the body on the last day.”
“We’re made in the image and likeness of God,” Father Kravatz said, recalling these beautiful words in Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
“Grace is a big reality in our lives. It’s the life of God that he chooses to share with us,” Father Kravatz said. “Look at resurrection as the final grace Jesus wants to give us.”
Father Kravatz spoke of Mary’s Assumption, when she was taken body and soul into heaven. “That’s what we hope to experience on the last day.”
“This speaks to Mary’s intercessory role in our lives. She’s at the right hand of her son, constantly praying for us.”
“What will it be like at the resurrection of the body? Look at Jesus’ resurrection. Our bodies will be somehow glorified. The scars we had may come through,” Father Kravatz said, noting Jesus still carries the scars of the cross.
“There will be a certain amount of freedom of movement. And our bodies will no longer hurt or decay – the pain we experience here is temporary.”
Father Kravatz said every body deserves respect, and that’s why the church is as strict as it is regarding funerals and burials.
Father Kravatz said though the church prefers the presence of the body at the funeral, the church allows cremation as long as it is done for the right reasons and the body is treated with respect. Sometimes the body is there for the funeral and cremated soon afterward.
“It doesn’t mean that if someone is cremated Jesus can’t resurrect the body, of course he can,” he added.
Father Kravatz said the resurrection of the body is “something we all look forward to – it’s a joy we can’t describe.”
“Everyone will be raised from the dead for eternal joy or eternal punishment,” he said.
“Salvation is always pure grace.”
At death, the soul will be judged immediately, going to heaven, purgatory or hell, with the souls in purgatory eventually going to heaven, Father Kravatz said. At the general judgement, the soul and body will be reunited.
“Apologetics,” derived from the Latin adjective “apologeticus,” is a theological science for the explanation and defense of the Christian religion.
This free series discusses topics within the faith that many of our contemporaries disagree with or don’t ascribe to. Many of us believe the church’s teachings, but don’t know how to speak about them with our neighbors, co-workers and children.
This series of forums is changing that. It is preparing lay Catholics with the tools of how to discuss the challenging teachings of our great faith.
There is no charge for attending. For those in need of continuing education credits for a master catechist certificate, attending this event counts.
For more information, contact the Office of Adult Formation, email@example.com or 610-289-8900, ext. 21.