By Christopher Wells
The Resurrection of Jesus was at first inconceivable to the Apostles, Pope Francis said in his weekly address for the Regina Coeli. And so, when He appeared to them, they thought they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus rose with His physical body
But, the Pope said, the Risen Jesus is not a phantasm; He is a man, with a body and a soul. That’s why, in Sunday’s Gospel reading, the Risen Lord shows His disciples the wounds in His hands and feet, and invites them to touch Him and see that He is a man of flesh and blood. When even this is not sufficient, the Lord asks the Apostles for something to eat. When they hand Him a piece of broiled fish, “Jesus takes it and eats it in front of them.”
A Christian perspective on the body
The reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection illuminates the Christian perspective on the body,” said Pope Francis. For Christians, the body is neither an obstacle nor a prison for the soul. It was created by God; and man is only complete when body and soul are united. Even if the body can become an occasion or an instrument for sin, Christians must recognize that the body in itself is “a wonderful gift of God, destined, together with the soul, to express in its fullness the image and likeness” of God.
We must care for the body
For this reason, the Pope said, “we are called to have great respect and care” both for our own bodies, and the bodies of other people. “Every offense or wound or violence to the body of our neighbour is an outrage against God the Creator!” he insisted. “My thoughts go, in particular, to the children, the women, the elderly who are mistreated in their bodies. In the flesh of these people we find the body of Christ. Insulted, calumniated, humiliated, scourged, crucified, Jesus has taught us love – a love that, in His Resurrection, is shown to be more powerful than sin and death, and that wishes to redeem all those who experience in their own bodies the various forms of slavery of our times.”
The Pope concluded his reflection by noting that we are called to be people who are able to see the world “with great profundity, full of wonder and great joy for having encountered the Risen Lord, people who know how to gather and appreciate the newness of life that He sows in history, to orient themselves toward the new heavens and the new earth.”