We must simply try to realize clearly and soberly that a spiritual union with God cannot be regarded as something which grows in inverse proportion to the belonging to the material world…’separation from the body’ for the soul in death does not by a long way need to mean ipso facto a greater nearness to God. Remoteness-from-the-world and nearness-to-God are not interchangeable notions, however much we are accustomed to think in such a framework. The deceased remain therefore (despite the visio beatifica) united with the fate of the world…
The end of the world is… the perfection and total achievement of saving history which had already come into full operation and gained its decisive victory in Jesus Christ and in his resurrection. In this sense his coming takes place at this consummation in power and glory…his Second Coming takes place at the moment of the perfecting of the world into the reality which he already possesses now, in such a way that he, the Godman, will be revealed to all reality and, within it, to every one of its parts in its own way, as the innermost secret and centre of all the world and of all history. This is the context into which we must fit what we call the resurrection of the body in the strict sense. The history – which has remained within the framework of the world – of those who by their lives have already effected their personal finality, reaches its real completion and explicit expression together with the consummation of the world. These human beings now become achieved as totalities with soul and body, and their perfection, already begun in death, becomes itself perfected, tangible in the world, embodied. We cannot really imagine the ‘how’ of this bodily consummation. But we can say in our faith together with God’s revelation: I believe, that we will one day be the living, the complete and achieved ones, in the whole expanse and in all the dimensions of our existence; I believe that what we call the material in us and in the world surrounding us (without really being able to say what it is basically, what belongs to its essence and what only to its temporary form and appearance) is not simply identical with what is unreal and mere appearance, with what has been cast off once and for all and which passes away before the final state of man…
Anyone who disposes of the earthly world and dismisses the perfected man from this earth for good, spiritualistically or existentially or in whatever other way, directing him into a beatitude of (supposedly) pure spirits, stultifies and betrays the true reality of man, the child of this earth. Whoever lets man perish, ground to pieces in the cruel mill of Nature, does not know what spirit and person are, and does not know how much more real, in spite of all their apparent weakness, the spirit and the person are than all the matter and energy of physics. Whoever does not believe that both of them, once reconciled, can come to the one completion, denies in the last analysis that the one God has created spirit and matter in one act for one end. The Christian, however, is the man with the complete solution. This solution is the most difficult, the least synoptical. The belief for this solution and the courage for such a solution he draws from the Word of God alone. But God’s Word testifies to the resurrection of the body. For the Word himself became flesh. He did not assume something unreal but something created. But whatever is created by God is never something merely negative, is never the veil of maya. Whatever has been created by God, assumed by Christ and transfigured by his Death and Resurrection, is also destined to finality and consummation in us.
Karl Rahner, “The Resurrection of the Body,” Theological Investigations 2.211, 213-216
In my view there is now a sort of stagnation in theology of the resurrection, for which there would seem to be – among others – these two reasons. One is that, although the resurrection refers to the future of history, it does not seem to have anything important to say about the present, what is with us now. The other is that, although the hope rediscovered by the new theology is important, it is an unduly universal hope and does not recognize the partiality essential to it, since Jesus’ resurrection is hope, directly, for the victims.
For the resurrection of Jesus to keep its identity and relevance, I think we need to adopt a new viewpoint, one that, while recognizing the novelty of post-conciliar theology, goes beyond it. It follows from the above that this new viewpoint has to include two things. The first is that Jesus’ resurrection should, in some way, be a reality that effectively affects history in the present, which supposes the possibility of living now as risen beings in history and the possibility of re-creating the experience of finality implied in the post-resurrection appearances, with – of course – all the relevant analogies. The second, more fundamental in the Third World, is understanding the resurrection in its essential relationship to the victims, so that the hope it unleashed should, above all, be hope for these victims.
Jon Sobrino, Christ the Liberator, 11-12
This seemed like a nice follow-up to the Sobrino passage:
But the fact that it is precisely here [in the resurrection] that the point of unity of all promises is to be found is of importance not only within the biblical conception, but unconditionally of importance for anthropology, for our total understanding of man. For what we are concerned with here is the promise of a way out of that dilemma which runs through all human nature, namely, the dilemma which is posed by the contradiction of death, with a promise which shows such a way out to be not only possible but finally also to be real. And the contradiction lies in this, that life promises the individual more than it can keep, that hope for one’s children and one’s children’s children is not an adequate substitute for personal fulfillment, particularly in view of the fact that one’s children and children’s children will themselves in their turn have to live in this hope. Admittedly, the ‘resurrection of the dead,’ or, to put it more soberly, the gathering up of man’s total existence, body and soul, in its temporal and transitory form into eternal love, remains an ‘idea surpassing reason,’ which can no more be constructed out of a general view of humanity than it can be out of the images of the Old Testament. But with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, this ‘idea’ becomes real, it is made present…as a reality which from now on can become the real, utopian goal of man’s life and of the world’s history. ‘Ascension’ and the promised ‘coming again’ are precisely the necessary transporting of the fact of this breakthrough – which cannot be given a lasting place within history, which must remain u-topian – to its only possible place, to the eschaton or the omega point.
Without the resurrection, two forms of perfection are pursued which narrow Christianity’s universal hope:
The individual can of his own efforts ‘perfect’ himself only by withdrawing into a spiritual realm, by resigning himself to a certain distancing of himself from the concrete and material form of his life. And history can ‘perfect’ itself of it own efforts only by (at best) striving toward a final generation which will live in a humanized world, and by sacrificing the whole concrete, material course of history of the generations which lead up to this final stage, by sacrificing them and putting them behind itself.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Elucidations, 293-295
I have just begun an intensive reading of liberation theologians and, in particular, Jon Sobrino. From time to time I will post interesting/provocative passages or ideas I find. Here’s one:
In this passage in Jesus the Liberator, Sobrino looks at two “all-embracing” realities which could function as the ultimate, eschatological reality for faith and the governing center for theology: the Kingdom of God and the resurrection. After providing a number of affirmations of how the resurrection could fulfill this role (and the resurrection as an eschatological reality will, of course, be central in Christ the Liberator), he nevertheless concludes:
If Jesus’ resurrection is to function as the ultimate for a theology [of liberation], an immense interpretative effort is clearly needed, which is not necessary if the ultimate is the Kingdom of God. The resurrection of itself possesses great power for expressing the ultimate meaning of history, final utopia, radical hope, but it does not possess so much power for showing how we have to live now in history and guide it toward utopia.
Furthermore, as happens with any symbol of the ultimate one chooses – including that of the Kingdom of God – the resurrection also has its limitations and dangers, not maybe as a pure concept, but in practice. There is no need to be shocked by these words, since anything we human beings touch, however good and holy – prayer, the struggle for justice, the very idea of God – is subject to our limitation and concupiscence. So history shows that a precipitate and one-sided penchant for the resurrection can and usually does encourage an individualism without a people, a hope without praxis, an enthusiasm without a following of Jesus: in short, a transcendence without history, a God without a Kingdom…Liberation theology is particularly sensitive to this danger.
All this has to be understood correctly. Of course I am not saying that Jesus’ resurrection is not a central reality for faith and for theology, and liberation theology in fact gives it the greatest importance and uses it as an expression of the ultimate. Jose Miranda criticizes Marx precisely on the basis of the resurrection, accusing him of not daring to conceive a transformation of reality that goes so far as to include ‘the resurrection of the dead.’ All I am trying to say is that Jesus’ resurrection is not considered as apt a reality as the Kingdom of God for featuring as the ultimate and organizing and ranking the whole of faith and theology. The resurrection will be very much taken into account, but from within something more all-embracing, the Kingdom of God.
Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator, 124-125