What a Body!
#WhatABody is the podcast for April 28, 2019, Easter Sunday. We are talking about Jesus’ body after the Resurrection. Seriously. What a Body! Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John20 #Witnesses #EmptyTomb #Resurrection #Easter #SpiritualBody #Sacraments #Reality #Rationalism #Mission
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/28/2019 The 2nd Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 20:19-31.
Today is “Doubting Thomas Sunday”. The point of Doubting Thomas, the apostle who took Christianity to India, the founder of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar churches, the one whose churches use the Liturgy of Saint James; the point of that Doubting Thomas is that different people have different degrees of proof needed to have faith, whether an apostle, disciple, or non-believer. That is very good to know. I remember when it was said that beloved Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, the Archbishop of Chicago, had a conversion after he became bishop. I don’t know if this is true, but it makes a great point in the Doubting Thomas narrative.
Yet, what the coupling of the Johanine Pentecost, simply meaning the descent of the Holy Spirit on the church according to John’s Gospel, and the story of Doubting Thomas does is it makes us focus on, well, us. As usual, when we read the recounting of events, we focus on what relates to us: we struggle with faith. OK. Fine. We struggle with faith, but there is some really great stuff here about the Church, the body of Christ, and our mission. Let’s focus on that.
Did anyone notice that Jesus appeared when the doors were locked and closed “for fear of the Jews”? He appeared in a physical body, not a spiritual mist. It is a body that apparently still carries the scars of his crucifixion and has physicality that can just appear. It is better than old Star Trek “beam me up, Scotty” stuff. There are no particles floating around like that old TV show. Those younger than 45, youtube it.
This is what it means for us who look forward to the “resurrection of the body.” It is a foretaste of what our bodies will be like after Jesus comes again and establishes a renewed heaven and a renewed earth. Our souls will be reunited with our bodies. It is why we should be careful how we treat our bodies in death; bury our body or keep the ashes in one place interred. Sin is the cause of death. When sin is eliminated through the permanent eternal sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, then life in all its fullness ensues. This is the example we have from Jesus’ resurrected body. This is what St. Paul calls a “spiritual body”. It is a physical body whose properties are changed to be like a spirit. Thus, Jesus appears where there are locked doors.
This is what we believe about the Eucharist, anointing oil, holy water, etc. When these items have the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, they change. They carry with them either the entire change of properties, such as the bread and wine become His body and blood, or they carry the Spirit with them, like Holy Water and anointing oil. It is not the water that cleanses, but the Holy Spirit. It is not the oil that heals, but the Holy Spirit. The bread, the wine, the water, the oil are vehicles for communion with the living God.
When Jesus breathed on the apostles, that was a game changer. These doubting men who ran every which way when Jesus was in trouble, are cowered together in the room because they are afraid of earthly power. After they are breathed on, things change. Our [my] tradition of Catholicism is not averse to the Azuza Street revivals and the palpable power of the Holy Spirit. We take it from scripture. To be a bishop is to be an apostle. To be a priest is an extension of the bishop. Bishops and priests share the same breath of the Holy Spirit from John’s Gospel through the laying on of hands at ordination which makes bishops and priests share in the ability to forgive sins.
I, for one, think we ought to be giving the forgiving of sins away like chicklets. (Those under 40, google it.) While old Satan is out there giving away temptation in a dime for two dozen fashion, we act like forgiveness is to be ferreted out in doses to the deserving. Well, if we are in sin, how exactly are we deserving of forgiveness? Forgiveness is the antidote for sin, yes? It is this passage from the Gospel of Saint John that gives the apostles, thus, bishops and priests, the ability to give away the gift of forgiveness of sins.
What makes these amazing gifts of sacramental life available to us are, and in order: Jesus’ obedience to do God’s will, the Crucifixion as eternal sacrifice for sin, the transformation of the body through Resurrection, and his breathing on the apostles who then use these tools to give us moral certitude. It is the practice of our faith, our religion, as sinners, that brings us into holiness. We do not come to be religious because we are holy. We need religion to be spiritual. We need religion to become holy.
There is an incredible irony in society. We act like engaging in immorality sets the body free for spirituality. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that degrading the body makes us powerful and power makes us spiritual. We are full of ourselves. To that, I say, “We are full of ourselves.” In living in bodies that have spirituality streaming through us, we should know instinctively that body and spirit, are inextricably tied together. When they are touched by baptism, then they enter into this resurrection possibility that Jesus brings in the Resurrected Body. We enter into the “beyond physics” reality of bodily life that Jesus brings us and breaths on us in the Gospel of John.
To remain in the idea that Jesus’ appearance does not change our reality is to remain in rationalism, with its stunted idea of humanity’s ability to know and be. It is much more free and alive to know that we can be more than physical body indulgent beings through the change wrought in us in the spiritual vehicles of Baptism, Reconciliation, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick. These sacraments are not just milestones that mark our lives, as the sociologists would have us believe. They are entrance into the “spiritual body reality” of Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the apostles and through them to us.
We enter the reality of heaven, Jesus as our King, God as our Father, the Holy Spirit as our enlivening force, to take the mission of God to the world. We go forth to offer the forgiveness of sins to the world so that they, too, can enter into this “spiritual body reality” of the Resurrection. They, too, can be set free to live the life of God through the body, with the body, in the body, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
We go, we [all] must have [a] mission oriented parish from which to organize because Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” So, before we take up these marching orders, this organizing principle, we need to make sure we understand the full impact of Jesus’ bodily appearance and clean up our own house. Be Baptized. Go to Confession. Attend to the Eucharist. Receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. Be anointed when sick. Then pick up your Cross in your renewed body and go to the ends of the earth. There is a lot of forgiving to do. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian