It is not uncommon to reread a scriptural text and be struck by some minor detail previously unnoticed. In reflecting on tonight’s gospel I had one of those experiences—this time relating to the great heavy stone sealing the Lord’s tomb and how it was removed. Although all four gospels speak of the same stone, Matthew is the only one who tells us how it was actually removed. Namely, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. Although it probably doesn’t need to be mentioned, this was not so that the resurrected Christ could emerge from his entombment as if he were helplessly trapped within and released by the angel.
Instead, as we know from subsequent post-resurrection appearances, closed and locked doors were no obstacle to his sudden appearing in the midst of his frightened and confused disciples. Nevertheless, we need to be careful: to suggest that he, as it were, walked through walls, doors, and otherwise impenetrable obstacles, would be to misunderstand Christ’s resurrected body and impoverish our grasp of what we ourselves are promised in the glorified body of our Risen Lord. In this regard we need to be cautious in inferring from some of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, about the true nature of his resurrected body. Indeed, Saint Paul advises against our trying to understand a reality that is ultimately closed to our human senses.
In answer to the fair question: With what kind of body will [the resurrected] come back?” Paul answers bluntly: You fool! And goes on to explain, what you sow is not the body that is to be. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. As a spiritual body it is released from the confines of the purely physical and breaks free of all space and time and thereby enters into eternity. In this sense, Christ’s resurrected body didn’t emerge from the tomb as much as it now fills the entire universe. No longer confined to a little corner of Palestine, the Risen Lord now embraces all reality in his glorified state. Perhaps this is something of what Jesus meant when in speaking of false prophets, he warned that if anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. Jesus’ resurrection ensures that he will no longer be bound to time and a place that would enable one to point to him and thus localize him.
And what is true of Christ the Head is equally true of us who are members of his Mystical Body. As Saint Paul insists, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.
What this all actually means is, as yet, beyond our grasp and exceeds our very limited modes of perception and understanding. Post-resurrection visions of the Risen Christ were just that, visions, with the reality of his resurrected body being drastically adapted to meet our desperately inadequate senses of perception. Therefore, although it is beneficial to remind ourselves that our aging and dying bodies will one day be raised in glory, it is perhaps prudent to quell futile curiosity about what our bodies will then be like. Instead, let us simply approach death in faith and with eager anticipation, expecting to be surprised beyond our wildest imaginings what God has prepared for those who love him.