Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the second reading, St. Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship. It is a reminder that our bodies are an integral part of our being, not a thing to be used and abused at will.

There is an intrinsic unity between our bodies and our souls. What we do we our bodies is relevant for our spiritual lives. As I mentioned last week, because of the Incarnation, our bodies are a vehicle for communion with God. Therefore, defiling our bodies is an action against the love of God, separating us from communion with Him and with our fellow human beings. Exploiting and abusing the bodies of others is a very serious offense against the Creator.

The Second Vatican Council emphatically reminds us of the dignity of the body and its importance in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes.

“Though made of body and soul, man is one. Through his bodily composition, he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus, they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator. For this reason, man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. Nevertheless, wounded by sin, man experiences rebellious stirrings in his body. But the very dignity of man postulates that man glorify God in his body and forbid it to serve the evil inclinations of his heart.

Now, man is not wrong when he regards himself as superior to bodily concerns, and as more than a speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man. For by his interior qualities he outstrips the whole sum of mere things. He plunges into the depths of reality whenever he enters into his own heart; God, Who probes the heart, awaits him there; there he discerns his proper destiny beneath the eyes of God. Thus, when he recognizes in himself a spiritual and immortal soul, he is not being mocked by a fantasy born only of physical or social influences, but is rather laying hold of the proper truth of the matter…

Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man. For by His incarnation the Father’s Word assumed, and sanctified through His cross and resurrection, the whole of man, body and soul, and through that totality the whole of nature created by God for man’s use.

Thanks to this belief, the Church can anchor the dignity of human nature against all tides of opinion, for example those which undervalue the human body or idolize it. By no human law can the personal dignity and liberty of man be so aptly safeguarded as by the Gospel of Christ which has been entrusted to the Church…

This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation. Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Long since, the Prophets of the Old Testament fought vehemently against this scandal and even more so did Jesus Christ Himself in the New Testament threaten it with grave punishments. Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other. The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation. Christians should rather rejoice that, following the example of Christ Who worked as an artisan, they are free to give proper exercise to all their earthly activities and to their humane, domestic, professional, social and technical enterprises by gathering them into one vital synthesis with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are harmonized unto God’s glory…

The biblical Word of God several times urges the betrothed and the married to nourish and develop their wedlock by pure conjugal love and undivided affection. Many men of our own age also highly regard true love between husband and wife as it manifests itself in a variety of ways depending on the worthy customs of various peoples and times.

This love is an eminently human one since it is directed from one person to another through an affection of the will; it involves the good of the whole person, and therefore can enrich the expressions of body and mind with a unique dignity, ennobling these expressions as special ingredients and signs of the friendship distinctive of marriage. This love God has judged worthy of special gifts, healing, perfecting and exalting gifts of grace and of charity. Such love, merging the human with the divine, leads the spouses to a free and mutual gift of themselves, a gift providing itself by gentle affection and by deed, such love pervades the whole of their lives: indeed, by its busy generosity it grows better and grows greater. Therefore, it far excels mere erotic inclination, which, selfishly pursued, soon enough fades wretchedly away. This love is uniquely expressed and perfected through the appropriate enterprise of matrimony.

The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and a ready will. Sealed by mutual faithfulness and hallowed above all by Christ’s sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in mind, in bright days or dark… The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue.”

Chastity, fortitude, temperance, prudence, and other human virtues together with the grace of God enable all of us to overcome the wounds of sin in our humanity and to offer it up entirely to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise, including, of course, our body redeemed by the blood shed by the body of Christ.

 

Fr. Roberto M. Cid