By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
What is God’s reason for giving us resurrected bodies at the end of time? St. Thomas Aquinas replies, because the members should be conformed to the head, Jesus Christ. Christ has a human body now in Heaven, since the Ascension was not the undoing of the Incarnation. Christ who is God became man forever for saving us.
If we did not have bodies reunited with our souls at the end of time in the renewed heavens and earth (Revelations 21:1), we would not be like Christ. If we had no bodies or we are just spirits we could not be “members” of His Mystical Body. The word “members” translated from the Greek word means “organs in an organism” and not “members” of a club or organization.
Our bodies are not merely instruments of our souls, as a tool is an instrument of a worker. We are not spiritual substances, like angels, which merely use material bodies when they appear to men. Nor are we two substances, bodies and souls, like ghosts in haunted houses. We are a single composite substance which is both material and spiritual. We are one person with body and soul. In philosophical terms, the soul is the form of the body and the body is the matter of the soul, somewhat as the meaning of the book is its form or soul and the words are its matter or body. At the end of the world and at the second coming of Christ, all the dead will rise and our bodies will be united again with our souls because we are meant to be with body and soul united. That’s what makes us human.
When you hit or hug someone, it is not just your hand or arms that do the action nor just your mind, will or emotions but the whole of you. And when you hit or hug a person you just don’t do that to his or her body but you do it the whole of him or her, with soul included. Since all the good and bad works we do on earth are done by the whole self, our just rewards and punishments are whole-self rewards and punishments as well, bodily as well as spiritual. In other words, at the end of time, whether we go to Heaven or Hell, we receive our reward or punishment with our body and soul together.
A human soul without a body is not a complete self, much like a sheet of music that is not played. It is physically paralyzed, since it has no body or senses to express itself. So even though the nature of God is spiritual and not material, our souls are more like God when they are in a material body, since as St. Thomas would say “a thing is more conformed to God when it has all the condition of its nature requires.” It means we were designed by God to be a composite human being with body and soul; we are still like Him since we conform to what He desires us to be and because Christ became human too. We will be more human than we are now at the end of time, in the new heavens and the new earth because we have gotten rid of the effects of original sin that hindered our being fully human and recover that state of innocence that we were meant to be, the state that Adam and Eve had before they sinned.