Superheroes are a huge part the American culture. In recent years, blockbusters like The Avengers franchise and Superman v. Batman along with television shows such as The Flash headline our entertainment. I am a huge fan of the Flash and I love his abilities of super speed, phasing, and time travel. However, at the end of the day, these characters are still human–just with amplified powers. Each Easter season I ponder the mystery of the Resurrected body of Jesus. Nearly every Sunday during Easter has a Gospel reading talking about the Apostles encounter with the Resurrected Lord! Please do not misread my topic, I am not trying to equate the resurrected body with a superhero from a comic book. What I want to reflect on today is what exactly can we deduce are the qualities of the resurrected body as evidenced in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (ex: Thomas Aquinas).
Here are four properties of the Resurrected body as outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Contra Gentiles IV, 86 and supported by Scripture:
- Impassibility (Incorruptible): St. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:42, ” So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.” St. Thomas builds on this to mean that the resurrected body is not subject to deterioration from disease and death.
- Subtlety (Phasing): St. Thomas uses the term subtlety which refers to the ability to pass through material objects. While still being material [I will explain this below], the resurrected body is able to pass or phrase through things. The prime example is Jesus passing through the closed and locked doors in John 20:19.
- Agility (Super speed): We get a hint at this ability through Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water [this is pure speculation– his movement was so quick he was able to move across water with ease]. One of the more famous post-resurrection appearance instances of agility is when Jesus leaves suddenly in the Emmaus episode in Luke 24:13-35.
- Clarity (Brightness): According to Thomas Aquinas, “The bodies of all men alike will be organized as befits the soul, so that the soul shall be an imperishable form giving imperishable being to the body, because to this effect the power of God will entirely subject the matter of the human body to the human soul” (Summa Contra Gentiles IV, 86). He also cites Matthew 13:43 which states the just will shine brilliantly in the kingdom of God. This quality of the resurrected body is the vaguest for me so I am not going to deviate from Thomas Aquinas’ words on this point. I encourage you to read more about this quality in Summa Contra Gentiles.
There is so much more to ponder when it comes to the nature and qualities of the resurrected bodies of both Christ and the saints. However, I will want to wrap up this post before I get too speculative in my theology. To be honest this past year, I have become enamored with superheroes of all sorts—in particular DC Comics’ The Flash. I often joke with my wife how cool it would be to acquire the power of the Speed Force and don the mantel of the Scarlet Speedster!
On a more serious note, I want to make sure that I am clear on this point, I am NOT equating the Resurrected Lord with the powers and abilities of superheroes such as Superman or The Flash—that would falter close to the heresy of Arianism. What I want to stress is that there is something mysterious and attractive about the resurrection of the body. Christians proclaim this belief each week in the Nicene Creed. It is important to realize that we follow God’s commandments and promote charity to our neighbor not because of the promise of the resurrection but due to our love for God. It is neat to think about the powers and abilities of the resurrected body. Until then I will ask for God’s grace through prayer and the sacraments to increase my love of the Holy Trinity and people I encounter on a daily basis. True heroism occurs in acts of love and virtue!