Though his place of burial bears no trace of it, Benjamin Franklin is said to have composed an epitaph for his tombstone. He describes his body in the grave as being, "like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and guilding."
This is like what the apostle Paul says of the body in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. He says the body that is sown into the ground at death is "perishable." It is "sown dishonorable." It is "sown weak."
Maybe the man whose body is sown into the ground was a great athlete. Gone are the strong muscles and taut sinews in the grave. Maybe the woman whose body is sown into the ground was a great beauty. Gone are the sheen of the hair and the brightness of the eyes in the grave.
Eventually, all find themselves like an old book with its contents gone and its adornments missing. This is brought to mind every time there is a funeral.
However, if our bodies are, as Ben Franklin wrote, like a book, then the creator of that book is God. He is the author of the story of our lives. He writes the beginning chapter, and he writes the conclusion. There is a surprise ending to the story. There is, in fact, a revision of the contents.
In the end, we live happily ever after. St. Paul writes of this happy conclusion in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. He says the "perishable" body sown into the ground will be raised "imperishable." He says the body "sown dishonorable" will be "raised glorious." He says the body "sown weak" will be "raised powerful."
This poor natural body, at the resurrection, will be raised a glorious spiritual body.
In his epitaph, Ben Franklin expresses this hope. Of the old, worn-out book with its contents torn out and its decoration missing, he writes, "But the work shall not be lost, for it will ... appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author."
Christians have taken comfort in this hope for centuries. Death will not have the last word.
Deacon Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, Hays.