September 1, 2017

Bodily Redemption is Our Hope In Christ

Ascension of Christ

Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, S.T.D.
Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama

(Pastoral letter delivered May 29, 2015 as Bishop of Charleston)
The faith of Christians expressed fully by Roman Catholics includes belief in the redemption and resurrection of the body. We say as much in the Creed each week. We do not believe that we become angels when we die. We remain human beings, awaiting glorified bodies. As with our Great Redeemer, Jesus Christ, we have a human nature which we will have for all eternity. Some have called this a "muscular and robust theology," but in fact it is simply constant Catholic belief. We believe that our human bodies will be changed, glorified, and perfected, but that they will still be our bodies and recognizable as such in some fashion.

The disciples knew Jesus after the resurrection even though it was his risen body which they saw. "And none of the disciples dared to ask him 'Who are you?' because they realized it was the Lord" (John 21: 12). While he was changed, he was still recognizable to his disciples. Jesus ate and drank after his resurrection, and Thomas took time to examine the Lord's wounds. It was the person of Jesus Christ, possessed of human and Divine natures, who ascended into heaven and eternal glory at the Father's right hand. In fact, the Feast of the Ascension is in some ways the feast of the redemption of the body, as humanity first entered into Paradise with the Lord's Ascension…

Catholics understand that the redemption of the body continues through the process of dying, even while one is in a coma or a vegetative state, and can even continue mysteriously after death. We do not presume to know what is happening between a person and his or her Maker in the accomplishment of redemption. For that reason we will not devalue the human person, no matter how the world would measure the quality of life. Ultimately the redemptive process leads to a habitual communion with the very love of the Father. [Redemption of Our Bodies]

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