I answered the door to a girl in her mid twenties who looked like an old woman. She was bent over in pain and her face was a contorted mask of agony. Tracey came to me in an act of desperation hoping I could help. She complained of chronic, searing abdominal pain. I invited her in and began to ask a few questions. The pain was intense and the doctors were baffled. Tracey had to quit her job. The pain killers didn’t touch the pain.
I asked her to describe the pain. Often people speak symbolically about the pain and reveal a deeper root problem. She said it felt like her insides were being torn out. I then asked if she were in a relationship of any kind and that is when the whole tragic story tumbled out– the affair with the older man, the pregnancy and pressure to have an abortion. Her father throwing her out of the house and the lover going back to his wife.
We had a healing Mass for Tracey in which we named the child, brought Christ’s forgiveness into the midst of the tragic situation. The next week Tracey turned up at my door and I didn’t recognize her. There on the doorstep was a beautiful twenty five year old girl. The pain was gone, she stood upright, she smiled radiantly. She had been healed.
This is the point of the story: people wonder why Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus. I believe it was because his resurrection body was transformed. The burden of sin and pain was relieved. The tortured years of fasting and prayer and battle with Satan were over. A dark cloud had lifted; a weight was gone.
They also didn’t recognize him because the resurrected Lord was now living in a new dimension. The resurrection body was real and physical, but it was physical in a different and greater way than we understand, and this helps explains the other anomalies in the resurrection stories as well.
On the one hand, Jesus was risen physically. He ate. He drank. They touched him. He was solid. However, he also seemed to pass through locked doors or walls. He suddenly vanished at the supper of Emmaus. His corporality was real, but it was of a different kind of reality.
C.S.Lewis theorizes about the nature of physical-ness in one of his science fiction fantasies. He says if a man were to step through a wall of fog, and the person perceiving this was convinced that the wall of fog were solid, then he would think that the man stepping through the fog was ghostly or immaterial. In fact it is the fog which is vaporous and immaterial. Likewise with angels–and by extension the resurrection body. It is not less real, but more real than the realm we regard as physical. According to this theory, Jesus came through locked doors or stepped through walls because they were like banks of fog to him who was now more real and solid and physical than he had ever been.
That this may be true reminds me of the miracle story I posted last week–in which a friend swerved to avoid a child who had stepped in front of his car, knowing that two cars were immediately in his path. But they weren’t there when he swerved. A moment later when he was back in his lane having missed the child they were there just as they had been moments before. When I posted this story a number of people commented and recounted similar tales.
All of this to say that I believe the nature of physical reality is far more flexible than we think. The resurrection body is to this world what our bodies are to a bank of fog. The heavenly realm also, is not less real than this world, but more real; more solid; more physical in a way that we cannot imagine. That we call that realm “spiritual” only belies our prejudiced perspective.
The resurrection hints that the other realm is of another dimension. Think of the ‘reality’ of watching a movie. That’s this world. Then think how that compares to real life.