How quickly time passes: Advent, Christmas, the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord have come and gone. Now we are back in “Ordinary Time.” However, there is nothing ordinary about the inner life and relationship within the Trinity, the life of Jesus Christ, His Church, Sacred Scripture and His Holy Sacraments. Today’s readings are so beautiful and very Theology of the Body.
The Readings of Sacred Scripture for Holy Mass today-the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time shed tremendous Divine Light on the dignity of the human body, the human person and the Body of Christ-the Church. The Church is not simply the constructed building of our local parish or diocesan cathedral, as important as they truly are, as houses of worship, but the Church, Christ’s Body is made up of all of us, clergy and laity alike. The 1st Reading from the Book of Nehemiah was written in a very difficult time for Judaism, which is trying to maintain its identity in post-Babylonian Captivity Israel, known as post-exilic. Yes, the exile of 597-536 B.C. was over but the chaos remained. Nehemiah was the man of action who rebuilt the shattered walls of Jerusalem and introduced very important administrative and legal reforms. Ezra was the great priest/religious reformer who worked to re-establish the Law (the Torah) as the religious constitution of the returning community. Nehemiah was a layman and Ezra a priest, who worked together to re-build the “secular” and “religious” aspects of Jewish life and they did it together. Ezra was re-teaching the people the beauty of the law but they could not see this at first-they felt it a burden because many realized they weren’t living it. “They were weeping as they heard the words of the Lord.” Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levitical priests were all instructing the people on the meaning of the Law. Aren’t ALL of us Catholics supposed to learn our faith and gently and faithfully share it with others, who may “feel” burdened by the Church’s teaching, because they do not understand what, the ethos behind the ethic truly means. St John Paul II taught the ethos “the why” behind the ethic “the what” in his masterpiece Theology of the Body. We Catholics are struggling with our Catholic Identity today under the onslaught of secularism and moral relativism. We are still in Captivity and we need the Ezras of this world to re-teach us the beauty of our faith and why and Theology of the Body is part of the beautiful Catholic Faith. Theology of the Body teaches not just about our beauty, but about who we truly are, as male and female sexual beings and who God truly is-our loving Father, our papa.
The Responsorial Psalm taken from Psalm 19 reminds us that the Lord’s Words are spirit and life. However, it takes a relationship between us and God, who is our loving Father, to want to follow Him when we begin to understand His unconditional love for us and that He gives us laws not to remove or hinder our freedom, but that His ways truly free us to choose the good, because only sin truly enslaves us.
St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 12 presents a beautiful analogy between our body, its individual parts and the Body of Christ, the Church. St. Paul reminds us of the dignity of different vocational callings within the Church which make up the Body, with Jesus as its Head. Indeed all are important and all have some measure of dignity inherent in them. St. Paul teaches us that we are not simply body parts, but that all the parts are important and that we must not be deconstructed to the point that we forget the sum of the parts is the human person with great dignity, heavenly (not monetary) value and worth.
St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teaches that persons cannot simply be reduced to body parts. We are all so much more than just collected body parts, we come from God and are destined for the Father, who created us holy, innocent and undefiled, in His Image in the Garden of Eden. Yes, we are fallen and broken, but not “dung” covered over in the snow of Jesus (a heresy of Martin Luther.) We are not fully corrupted and beyond doing anything good with no possibility of choosing good. Catholic anthropology is much more hopeful that while we are broken, we have great dignity and ability with God’s grace and healing to do great good and grow in holiness.
As St Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and claimed He was the one whose coming was foretold by the prophet and that the scriptures are fulfilled in Him. For this claim they will try to kill Him, but it wasn’t His time yet. God’s words bring life and we, as the Body of Christ, must teach them to others according to our vocational calling, of which all are important, parts of the same beautiful Body. Many will hate us and try to kill us for it. Blessed be God forever. Read the Sermon on the Mount by St Matthew or St. Luke and do not be afraid, as Pope St. John Paul II said for 27 years. What a great time to be Catholic and in the words of Ezra the priest-scribe: “do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.