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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Awaiting Resurrection

Robert Barron - Awaiting Resurrection

Robert Barron - Awaiting Resurrection
TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection

Peace be with you. Friends, I love how all three of the readings for the Second Sunday of Lent call to mind the mystical, the strange, the transcendent world that's the goal of all of our religious striving. Our first reading from the book of Genesis talks about the covenant that the Lord makes with Abraham. He has to cut these animals in two, and then all this strange darkness descends, and this flame passes through the severed pieces of the animals, a voice is heard. All these symbols are meant to evoke this mystical and strange higher world with which Abraham is having intercourse. In other words, it's never just a question of what goes on within this realm of our experience, but we have a relationship to this higher reality, which is summoning us.

Then the second reading from Paul to the Philippians. Let me just read a little bit to you. "But our citizenship," he tells the Philippians, "is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ". Listen. "He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body". Extraordinary lines, aren't they? At the very beginning of the Church, when there are a handful of Christians around the world, but Paul speaks with his extraordinary confidence that our citizenship, even though we live in this ordinary world, and he's thinking about the culture of ancient Rome and so on, but we don't have our citizenship here. Our citizenship, where we really belong, is in heaven. From heaven, we await the coming of the Lord, when he will conform these lowly bodies of ours to be like his own glorified body. Huh? What does that mean?

Well, I don't think we really know. Elsewhere, Paul talks about a spiritualized body. Our same body. I mean, he's a Jew. He wasn't thinking of souls escaping from bodies so much. That's Plato. He's a Jew. He's thinking of, I mean, me, I am my body. But what we await is a glorification and elevation, a perfection beyond our imaginings of this lowly body of ours. Okay? With that kind of mystical consciousness, we should turn to the famous Gospel reading, which is Luke's account of the Transfiguration.

Now, say what you want about these stories, say what you want about this event that inspired them. It fascinated the first Christians, and it has continued to fascinate Christians up and down the centuries. The story of Jesus' Transfiguration. The Greek behind that term, so "Transfiguratio" would be a Latinization, but the Greek, which means "metamorphosis". He was metamorphosed before them. That means, "morphe" means form, "meta" beyond. He went beyond the form that he had. Huh? What does that mean? I don't think we entirely know. But something so strange happened that this ordinary Jesus from Nazareth... Look, he's certainly said and done extraordinary things at this point, but he looked for all the world like anybody else. He's a physical human being and was wearing the clothes everybody else wore. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance. In fact, do you find this intriguing? I always have.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there any reference to what Jesus looked like. A bit peculiar. Odd, isn't it? This figure of supreme importance to them. There's not one reference to what he looked like. Well, I mean, clearly he was an ordinary man of that time and culture, except at this moment. Except here on that holy mountain when was metamorphosed, he went beyond the form that he had. Can we think caterpillar-butterfly? I know it's a kind of hackneyed image, but a metamorphosis of this kind of lowly grub, this lowly critter becoming this splendid butterfly. Something happened. Something happened that so impressed them, that you hear it reflected in these stories, and it's impressed Christians up and down the ages.

Let me just give you a little hint here of how they tried to describe it. "While he was praying his face changed in appearance". What does that mean? I don't know entirely. "His clothing became dazzling white". It's different. It's as though his deepest identity became clear, became transparent. It's as though the divinity within him shone through his physicality that that very physicality was elevated, and changed, and became resplendent. His glorified human body was on display. That seems to be what they're talking about.

I love how Thomas Aquinas said that the purpose of the Transfiguration was, in the midst of this kind of slog through Jesus' public life, which had glorious moments to be sure but also had a lot of struggle and opposition, that during that slog the disciples got this glimpse of "Ah! That's who he is. That's what he's finally about. And that's", dare they dream it? "that's what's in store for us". That our bodies, as Paul says, might be transfigured too. What we're talking about here, everybody, is the glorified body in heaven. The goal, if you want, of the spiritual life.

Now, look, I came of age after Vatican II, and everyone and his brother and sister put a huge stress on the this-worldly dimension of the faith. And fine, are there implications for social justice and concern for the poor and making this world a better place? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. However, show me one text in Vatican II or anywhere else in our great tradition that says, "The Church is only about making this world better". No, no, no. The Church from the beginning has been fascinated by this perfection on high to which we tend. This properly supernatural goal that's held out to us. And these readings, in their own way, and it's lovely as we are going through kind of the slog of Lent, that we get a glimpse too of this.

Okay. With that in mind, I want to look just really briefly at the way St. Thomas Aquinas describes the glorified body. And you say, "Oh, he's just sort of wildly speculating". Well, no, it's based upon texts such as this and also the texts about the resurrected Jesus. But also, how wonderful that we are thinking about what life will be like on high. And these readings prompt this meditation. Okay, here's the first quality, Aquinas says, of the glorified body. It has identity. That means it is in some very basic way in continuity with these bodies here below.

Now, think for a minute everybody. This body that you see before you, well, is this the same body I had when I was five years old? Well yeah, in a way, because the form and structure of it remains, but heck, every cell, molecule in my body when I was five is different now. Right, what do the scientists tell us, they're replaced completely every, I don't know what it is, several months or years. The point is there's a kind of discontinuity even in this life. But yet I say, no, that five-year-old Bob Barron who was playing baseball back in Birmingham, Michigan, is the same one standing before you now. There's identity, even though this body is also radically different. Well, in heaven there'll be a continuity with this body but yet a great difference, an elevation, a transformation, a transfiguration.

Aquinas says, will people be able to recognize us? Yeah, because it's the same body, but again, think caterpillar-butterfly. I'll be myself but myself at such a higher pitch of perfection. Here's the second trait, he thinks, of the glorified body. He calls it quality. That means the glorified body will be at the height of its powers, possessing a full integrity. It's all of us as we get older, you reach a certain point in life where you're kind of at the height of your powers and then, let's face it, the powers begin to wane. We weaken, we lose our capacity. I mean, I remember quite vividly when I could still play football and basketball at a pretty high level. Get me out there in a basketball court now, forget it. I mean, those powers have kind of waned. I'm satisfied now with a round of golf. It's because I don't have the physical power I used to have to run up and down a court.

Well, in heaven, Aquinas says, there'll be no loss of these powers, but rather we're at the highest pitch. And then thirdly, relatedly, the glorified body, Thomas says, has impassibility. That means it will not change or diminish. So as I say, it's one of the sadnesses of this life, and every poet and novelist in some ways talks about it, is that I change and I diminish, I lose what I have. But no, in heaven, in the glorified body, at the full pitch of my power and integrity, I don't lose that. I retain this perfection of being, impassibility. Fourthly, Aquinas says, beautiful idea, the resurrected body will have agility. And what he means here is very specific. He means that the body will be able to respond utterly and perfectly to the promptings of the soul.

So think, I mean, right now my body is responding, if you want, to the promptings of my soul. I'm imagining a goal, I'm willing it, and then I'm instantiating through the movements of my body. I've got agility, and I can in a few minutes walk out of this place, back to my car. I've got sufficient agility to do that. But this body of mine can't do everything that I want to do, everything I imagine. I mean, heck, I'd like to play basketball like Michael Jordan, I'd like to swing a golf club like Rory McIlroy, but I can't do that. My body can't respond with perfect agility to the promptings of my soul, but, Aquinas says, in heaven it can. His justification for this is the resurrected Jesus who can, yes, even pass through walls. Though the place where they were, they were locked in for fear of the Jews we hear, Jesus came and stood in their midst.

That's the agility of his resurrected body. That we can respond in the wink of an eye to the most extravagant yearnings of our will and imaginings of our mind, that's agility. And then finally, Aquinas says, the resurrected body has clarity or luminosity. "Claritas" is the Latin. And how wonderful it's correlated to the story of the Transfiguration. That Jesus became dazzlingly bright. The light of the Transfiguration. Why is it, this is true even across the cultures, why is it that we associate holiness with light? Why do we put halos around the heads of the saints? Why is it that in lots of stories of holy people, light is associated with them? There's a wonderful story.

Malcolm Muggeridge, the man who really brought Mother Teresa to the consciousness of the world, that when he went to film in her place where she cared for sick and the dying, the lights failed. The lights they had brought failed and his producer said, "It's just not going to work. Let's not do it". And Muggeridge said, "No, go ahead and film anyway, let's see what happens". And when the film came back, they were astounded because there was this luminosity all through the room that allowed them to film perfectly. What was that but some anticipation of this claritas of the resurrected body?

I years ago met this older man who, when he was a young kid in the army in World War II, had heard about this Italian holy man, Padre Pio. And he went with a buddy of his, they went to serve his Mass. And he said to me, and his eyes filled with tears as he told the story, he said, "As he lifted the host up," he said, "Father believe me I wasn't dreaming," all around his hands around the host was a bright light, the claritas, the luminosity of holiness. And so our resurrected glorified bodies, luminous with the holiness of God. Think on these things everybody. As we're making our kind of tough slog through Lent, think of these things. What God holds out to us, eye has not seen and ear has not heard. And let that give you hope. God bless you.
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