“I am spiritual but not religious.” This is the mantra voiced by a number of people, Catholics included. It means that such people savor the inner qualities of their faith in Jesus Christ but not the outer framework in which those qualities are contained.
They respond warmly to the Christmas scene of Mary and Joseph kneeling close to Jesus as a newborn infant. They may resonate with the teaching of Jesus on the beatitudes, describing the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers. They may treasure His words on loving one another as he has loved us.
But when it comes to graphically depicting these sentiments in ritual, music, art, architecture, vestments, ceremonies, processions, incense—this is a different story. They find such a discrepancy between thoughts and feelings, and the attempt at giving tangible expression to them fails miserably in the opinion of some people. The sermons are boring, the collection is scandalous, the singing is outdated, the prayers formulaic and out of touch with people’s needs and desires.
In other words, a beautiful soul but an ugly body. This seems to be a version of what happened centuries ago on Mt. Calvary: a grotesque corpse hanging on a cross, and then the emergence of a glorious body three days later from a nearby tomb. It was very difficult for the apostles and the women to put these two forms of the body together. Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize the risen body of Jesus—neither would Thomas even admit this was possible.
So what results from this but the beautiful body of the risen Jesus—a body still sharing the ugly wounds? This is putting spirituality and religion together. The Jesus who ascended into heaven did so in a wounded body, and so will our resurrection be—a spiritual event in a wounded humanity.
The resurrection is not just a spiritual event. It is a religious occurrence where any ugliness involved is beautified in the spirit accompanying it.