Question: In our Catholic Faith we believe in the resurrection of the body. The Scripture states that in the kingdom there is neither male nor female. Does this mean that our body will not be resurrected in its full earthly form?
— Name withheld, New Baltimore, Pa.
Answer: It seems that you’re referring to what St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Here St. Paul is indicating that there is no difference in terms of dignity. In other words, whatever distinctions there are between us, even essential distinctions, there remains the truth that we are all equal in dignity before God.
But this equality in dignity does not mean there is no difference in essence. Clearly, being male or female is a distinction that goes to the very depths of our being, including our soul. And thus, when our body rises, we will be male or female.
Perhaps, in the context of your question, it is also good for us to reflect on a common modern error that reduces sexual distinctions to a merely incidental, surface quality about the physical characteristics of the body. But this is not so. The soul is the form of the body. That is to say, it is the identity of the soul and its capacities that give rise to the design of the body. Hence, a person’s sex is not simply an incidental quality, but is an aspect of his or her person that extends from the depths of the soul. Humans do not just have a male or female body, they are male or female.
The most extreme form of reducing sex to a merely incidental quality of the body is illustrated in those who engage in so-called “sex change” operations, as if simply altering the body surgically could change a person’s sexual identity. It cannot. Scripture says, “In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). Our identity as male or female extends to our innermost being, and cannot simply be shed like clothing is.
Hence, when we rise, we will indeed be male and female. Further, even before the resurrection of the body, our soul remains male or female.
Recognizing St. Joseph
Question: I don’t think St. Joseph gets the recognition he deserves. We rightly speak a lot of Mary and certainly of Jesus, but Joseph is often relegated to the background. Why is this so, and should it change?
— Jeannine Aucoin, Henniker, N.H.
Answer: Yes, more should be said of St. Joseph, especially today when fatherhood is in such crisis. St. Joseph was a strong man who was willing to sacrifice career and personal comfort to protect and care for his family. He listened to God and did what he was instructed to do in the obedience of faith. Here is a powerful model for men and fathers today. I often preach on St. Joseph when I give men’s conferences.
That said, the reserve in emphasizing Joseph extends to the Scriptures themselves. This is not due to any neglect of St. Joseph personally, but extends from the emphasis that the true Father of Jesus is God the Father.
Nevertheless, your point remains valid. We ought not be overly forgetful of St. Joseph. Even if what we know of him from the Scriptures is very limited, what we do know is powerfully inspiring.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.