Week 5 The Resurrected Body

 Week 5 The Resurrected Body  Comments Off on Week 5 The Resurrected Body
Apr 042017

Christ’s Resurrection is Our Resurrection

In the sixth chapter of Romans, St. Paul writes: …are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4)

Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are the same event, much as a lightning bolt and a thunder clap are the same event. We are living in that space between the lightning flash and the thunder. Our baptism is akin to the lightning and at Christ’s return we will hear the thunder. In other words, resurrection is a “here and now” event as much as it a “there and then” occurrence. Such is the mystery of the Resurrection.

The Catechism

By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day. (CCC #1016)

There will be an individual judgment at the time of death. The soul is consigned to heaven, hell or purgatory. The physical body remains. The “last day” [or eschaton] will be a general event in which all will participate. At that time, the soul will reunite with the physical body, and together they will become the resurrected body. Those remaining who have not died will also be judged. And as we all stand before the Lord our final destiny will be determined.

Until that day, we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer which addresses our Father: “Who art in heaven” does not refer to a place but to God’s majesty and his presence in the hearts of the just. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which, already, we belong. (CCC#2802)

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

“Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.” [St. Teresa of Avila] (CCC#1821)

Perfect Communion

St. John Paul taught that in the beginning, God made humans “male and female” and the two became “one flesh.” This “complementarity” was expressed in marriage and procreation. Sin, especially in the form of lust and shame, damaged this original complementarity. But as we await the fullness of the resurrection we learn that in the world to come, there will be neither marriage nor procreation. However, Jesus does not say that people will lose their gender. There will be no androgyny in heaven.

The fundamental meaning of the body—its “nuptial significance”—is that human beings are created to form intimate communion. (Again, we think “we” instead of just “me.”)

This is the life of Resurrection. There will be perfect communion with the Triune God and with every other person. By participating in the life of the divine communion of persons, the Blessed Trinity, the resurrected body will fully express the image and likeness of God, mysteriously conveying individuality while manifesting the oneness of the Body of Christ. As St. Paul describes the Body of Christ, There are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:20)

The fullness of the resurrection will be entirely new, different from Adam and Eve before the “Fall.” But it will not be disconnected from our earthly life, for it will be the fulfillment of the promises we now carry as Baptized Christians.

When our bodies are glorified, they will become what God intended them to be at the moment of creation. They will be visible and tangible signs of selfless love. All the encumbrances of the selfishness of sin will be destroyed.

It is impossible for us to imagine exactly what this heavenly life will be like. But we are offered glimpses. It is something that we take by “faith.” And as we read in “Hebrews,” Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

Upon setting the stage for his views of the resurrected body, St. John Paul refers to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12 verse 18 and following:

18Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, 19saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 20Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. 21So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants and the third likewise. 22And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. 23At the resurrection [when they arise] whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” 24Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? 25When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. 26As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, [the] God of Isaac, and [the] God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.” (Mk. 12:18-27)

We note especially Jesus’ response to the to the Sadducees’ cynical question about the woman who married seven brothers. 23At the resurrection [when they arise] whose wife will she be?

Jesus emphasized that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. To refute their absurd example of seven husbands, Jesus asserted that humans neither marry nor are given in marriage in heaven. Since humans will no longer die, they will not have to replace themselves with offspring as they do now on earth. Note the obvious implication that without the prospect of reproduction, there is no rationale for sexual activity in the afterlife. Yet this does not mean that there will be no joy. The promise is that those resurrected persons in heaven will have what the Church calls The Beatific Vision. 

The Beatific Vision

The Beatific Vision refers to the eternal union with God which will be found in heaven, remembering that “Beatific” means “total bliss.”

St. Paul put it this way: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The original union of man and woman, in which they were “face to face,” naked and without shame, is only a dim foreshadowing of the beatific vision. In the beatific vision, God will give himself totally to his people and we will respond with the total gift of ourselves to him. If we offer this kind of response, we will be filled and completed with the love of Christ.

In the resurrection, we discover – in [a heavenly] perspective – the same…’spousal’ meaning of the body…in the encounter with the mystery of the living god…face-to-face. (TOB 67:5)

As a reminder, the “spousal” meaning of the body is in no way an exclusion of those who do not have spouses here on earth. It is only saying that chiseled into us is the call to Holy Communion with God and one another, in which everyone is called to participate, both incompletely now on earth and fully once in Heaven.

In the joys of their love [God gives spouses] here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb. (CCC #1642)

“The Church ‘longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of Heaven’ where she ‘will rejoice one day with [her] Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.’ (CCC #1821) Heaven is communal. Those in heaven participate fully in the communion of saints.

The Communion of Saints

The communion of saints is the definitive expression of the human call to communion. It is the unity in “one body” of all who respond to the wedding invitation of the Lamb.” (see Rev. 19)

We will see all and be seen by all. We will know all and be known by all. And God will be “all in all. (Eph. 1:23)

We should think of the reality of the ‘other world’ in the categories of the rediscovery of a new, perfect subjectivity of each person and at the same time of the “rediscovery of a new, perfect intersubjectivity” of all. [TOB 68:4]

This means the true and definitive fulfillment of the ‘spousal’ meaning of the body. In this way, the resurrected reality “will become the source of the perfect realization of the ‘trinitarian order’ in the created world of persons.” (Ibid)

Divinization, Deification, Theosis

For all this to happen, St. John Paul speaks of the spiritualization of the resurrected body in which there will be a “total permeation of the body” by the Holy Spirit. This is also known as divinization (aka deification or theosis.) He writes: the state of man in the other world will not only be a state of perfect spiritualization, but also of fundamental divinization of his humanity (TOB 241) 

We are told in the Catechism that The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“:”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men [God.]”* (CCC #460) *[St. Thomas Aquinas among others.]

Divinization means ‘participation in the inner life of God himself.’ In this state ‘penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine will then reach its peak.’ Those who are united with Christ eternally will experience ‘God’s self-communication in his very divinity, not only to the soul, but to the whole of [one’s] psychosomatic subjectivity [soul-body personhood].’ (TOB 67:3)

In the resurrection, we will fully participate in the divine nature as redeemed people. In other words, we will become what the Triune God is by a sheer gift of grace.

What is this gift of Grace? It is the call to participate in God’s own eternal exchange of love. The nature of God is to give the gift of himself. The nature of human beings is to receive the gift. The nature of sin is to deny the gift. The nature of redemption is that the gift is revealed through the Body of Christ: “This is my body, given for you.” The nature of faith is to open humanity to the gift.

Here on earth, we participate in the divine life of Christ every time we consume the precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Eucharist. In so doing we become one with Him.

The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature. For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’” (ibid)

Divinization means in part, that our Resurrected bodies will not be limited by our fallen humanity. St. John Paul writes: When Christ speaks of the resurrection, he proves at the same time that the human body will also take part, in its way, in this eschatological experience of truth and love, united with the vision of God face to face. When Christ says that those who take part in the future resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk 12:25), his words—as has already been pointed out—affirm not only the end of earthly history, bound up with marriage and procreation, but also seem to reveal the new meaning of the body. (TOB 63:3)

From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.” It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life? (CCC #996)

Spiritual Body vs. Natural Body 

In the 15th Chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes the Resurrection:

36…What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. 37And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; 38 but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another for fish. 40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. 41The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. 43It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. 44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

St. Paul’s point is that the resurrected body is not a resuscitated corpse. A major transformation takes place at the time of resurrection and it will be glorious.


Participation in the divine nature, that is participation in the interior life of God himself, is a result of God’s penetration and permeation of what is fully human. The resurrected body therefore will be the fruit of grace which is God’s very own divinity.

At the resurrection each one will be capable of seeing God face to face, in accordance with the union with God in his Trinitarian majesty and mystery. The result will be an intimacy with him in the perfect communion of persons. This in turn will provide perfect unity with all the others ‘saints of God.’ This intimacy—with all its subjective intensity—will not absorb the individual’s unique identity, but rather it will make it stand out to an incomparably greater and fuller extent.











Week 4 Celibacy and Virginity

 Week 4 Celibacy and Virginity  Comments Off on Week 4 Celibacy and Virginity
Mar 282017

Annus Mirabilis (Remarkable Year)

By Philip Larkin

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(which was rather late for me) –

Between the end of the Chatterley ban

And the Beatles’ first LP.*


Up to then there’d only been

A sort of bargaining,

A wrangle for the ring,

A shame that started at sixteen

And spread to everything.


Then all at once the quarrel sank:

Everyone felt the same,

And every life became

A brilliant breaking of the bank,

A quite unlosable game…

Philip Larkin, Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)

*(The UK ban on D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover was lifted in 1960 when the publisher, Penguin Books sued and won. Within weeks, the book sold over 3 million copies. The Beatles first LP in the UK was “Please, Please Me,” released in 1963.)

Whether self-revelatory or “tongue in cheek,” or perhaps a mixture of both, this work by the prominent English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) speaks to the response of many to the so called “sexual revolution.” Think of phrases from the era such as “free love” and “make love, not war.”

It was brought about by a confluence of factors: the rise in the self-preoccupation of “Baby Boomers,” the “do your own thing” generation (this is in contrast to the “Greatest Generation” a term coined by Tom Brokaw that referred to those of the World War II generation who put their emphasis on being of service.) There was much rebellion by the “Baby Boomers” against the “up tight” values of their parents.

The resultant counter-cultural movement included a significant increase in the use of recreational drugs, disdain for the Cold War and the War in Vietnam, the rise of feminism, the “pill” and other forms of artificial birth control, the sex researchers Alfred Kinsey and the partnership of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Freudian psychology which claimed that repressed sexual feelings were the primary cause of mental health issues, the rejection of Church teachings as being “prudish” and “Victorian,” and so forth.

There was also alienation between the sexes and cross gender sexual experimentation claimed to relieve people of much shame. Remember the line? “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Larkin wrote of:

A shame that started at sixteen

And spread to everything,                  

Then all at once the quarrel sank:

Everyone felt the same,

And every life became

A brilliant breaking of the bank,

A quite unlosable game…

Larkin implied that the “sexual revolution” eliminated shame from people’s lives—at least their sex lives. Freewheeling sex was a “quite unlosable game…”

No fault divorces came into vogue. Marriage was scorned in many quarters. (Think today of the people who choose to co-habitate rather than to be married. How often have you heard the phrase—“I don’t need a piece of paper to show my commitment”? The implication is that folks will stay together until something better comes along.)

In the Church, post-Vatican II era vocations to the priesthood and religious life declined sharply. It was a most challenging time.

It was an atmosphere of changed views about human sexuality, one that stressed “recreational” more than a “procreational and permanently committed unitive” view of sex. This was something that Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope St. John Paul II in Theology of the Body challenged. They articulated very carefully the Church’s historic and consistent stand.

Consecrated Celibacy and Virginity

The Catechism states: “People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.” Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence. (CCC #2349)

Scripturally, virginity was not esteemed for its own sake in Old Testament times. It became a desired state with the arrival of Christ and the ushering in of the New Covenant. Following the example of the Blessed Mary, ever virgin, John the Baptist, St. Paul and Jesus himself, the Church deemed that perfect continence—defined as the firm intention to abstain from all sexual pleasure licitly in marriage or illicitly— was a great virtue.

Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is rooted in the recognition of Christ as the center of one’s life. Our bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds—including those of the family. Perfect celibacy means total consecration to Christ in body and soul, of which the supreme example is our Virgin Mother. 

When St. John Paul writes of celibacy and virginity, he is being specific about people who are living “consecrated lives” in one or both states. It’s a general standard of the Church that all unmarried people are to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage, but those who are consecrated do so intentionally and specifically for the Kingdom of Heaven. Pope Benedict XVI wrote that celibacy cannot mean “remaining empty in love, but rather must mean allowing oneself to be overcome by a passion for God.” (YOUCAT # 258)

Pope St. John Paul turns to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12 verse 18 and following:

18Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, 19saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 20Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. 21So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants and the third likewise. 22And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. 23At the resurrection [when they arise] whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” 24Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? 25When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. 26As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, [the] God of Isaac, and [the] God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.” (Mk. 12:18-27)

As Mark informs the readers, the Sadducees rejected belief in the Resurrection, holding that the soul perishes along with the body at death. Their question is designed to prove that belief in the resurrection leads to absurdity. The idea of seven brothers marrying the same woman, leaving no descendants, leads Jesus to scoff at them and indicates that their ignorance is based on two errors in thought; they understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God.

First, they misunderstand God’s power in being able to restore the dead to life and to give them a completely transformed existence. He points out that life in heaven is transformed, not just a continuation of this life. Those who have risen from the dead will not be married.

Second, the Sadducees do not understand the scriptures. God is the God of the living and not the dead, and these living are whole beings who will be tended and all their needs will be provided; there is a different kind of wholeness in resurrection that does not include a sexual/matrimonial bond. It is union with Christ—when the faithful will miraculously and mysteriously become fully part of his Body. Consecrated virgins and/or celibates are committed to this ultimate wholeness that is found in Christ, in the Kingdom.

St. John Paul emphasized a basic Church teaching: the purpose of intentional, consecrated virginity and celibacy is for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. He writes: The question of the call to an exclusive donation of self to God in virginity and celibacy thrusts its roots deep in the Gospel soil of the theology of the body. To indicate the dimensions proper to it, one must bear in mind Christ’s words about the beginning, and also what he said about the resurrection of the body. The observation, “When they rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk.12:25), indicates that here is a condition of life without marriage. (From the Holy Father’s general audience of March 10th, 1984.)

As Christ revealed through his own example, this consecrated life is an especially effective way to glorify the Kingdom of Heaven.

Key for St. John Paul was this passage from Chapter 19 of Matthew: 12Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.

Since marriage remains the normal or ordinary vocation, celibacy will always be the extra-ordinary vocation. Christ does not gloss over the difficulties of the celibate life. When men and women with normal, and noble, human inclinations for marriage choose to forego marriage for the sake of the Kingdom, they will struggle. For this reason, a celibate person must continually renew the source of his or her motivation.

At the forefront of this motivation is the awareness that celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is a “charismatic” gift. In other words it is a “chrism,” a special gift, an empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

Celibacy must be grounded in prayer, not only by the individual celibate, but also by his/her larger community. It is critical that celibate priests, religious and others consecrated to this life style be supported, primarily through the prayer of others.

The Holy Father wrote: The question of continence for the kingdom of heaven is not set in opposition to marriage, nor is it based on a negative judgment about the importance of marriage…Christ appeals to another principle…but in view of the particular values which is connected with this choice and which one must discover and welcome one’s own vocation. For this reason Christ says, “Let anyone understand this who can’ (Mt. 19:12)…One can say that the choice of continence for the kingdom of heaven is a charismatic orientation toward that eschatological state in which human beings ‘take neither wife nor husband’. (TOB 73:3, 4)

Celibacy is intended to help one focus on the Kingdom. St. Paul wrote of this in the 7th chapter of 1st Corinthians: 32 I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. 33But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

One must keep in mind that St. Paul was expecting the Lord Jesus to return in glory any moment, and one ought to be focused on that. Marriage causes distractions: everything from raising children, to dealing with in-laws, to trying to figure out how to pay the bills. A consecrated virgin or celibate does not have those domestic issues that often cause anxiety.

John Paul comments on Jesus’ statement in Mark 12:25: When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven.

“This way of existing as a human being (male and female) points to the eschatological “virginity” of the risen man, in which, I would say, the absolute and eternal spousal meaning of the glorified body will be revealed in union with God himself, by seeing him “face to face,” glorified moreover through the union of a perfect intersubjectivity that will unite all the “sharers in the other world,” men and women, the mystery of the communion of saints. Earthly continence “for the kingdom of God” is without doubt a sign that indicates this truth and this reality. It is a sign that the body, whose end is not death, tends toward glorification. (TOB 75:1)

(This will be explored more fully in the next section.)


St John Paul taught that the charismatic choice of continence for the kingdom of heaven is linked, in Christ’s words, with the highest recognition of the historical order of human existence relative to the soul and body. On the basis of the immediate context of the words on continence for the kingdom of heaven in man’s earthly life, one must see in the vocation to such continence a kind of exception to what is rather a general rule of this life. Christ indicates this especially. That such an exception contains within itself the anticipation of the eschatological life without marriage and proper to the “other world” (that is, of the final stage of the “kingdom of heaven”), is not directly spoken of here by Christ. It is a question indeed, not of continence in the kingdom of heaven, but of continence for the kingdom of heaven. The idea of virginity or of celibacy as an anticipation and eschatological sign derives from the association of the words spoken here with those which Jesus uttered on another occasion, in the conversation with the Sadducees, when he proclaimed the future resurrection of the body. (Pope John Paul II General Audience, March 10, 1980)




Week 3 The Sacrament of Marriage

 Week 3 The Sacrament of Marriage  Comments Off on Week 3 The Sacrament of Marriage
Mar 212017

The Church tells us of the liturgical importance of the sacrament marriage. (Remember liturgy comes from the Greek term which means “work of the people.” In a sacramental marriage, in union with Christ, the bride and groom do the work. Everyone else is a witness.)

In the Catechism we read:

– Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;

– Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children;

– Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);

– The public character of the consent protects the “I do” once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it. (CCC #1631)  

What occurs in the nuptial bed is a re-enactment of what occurs before the Altar of God.

St. John Paul II reflected on this passage from St. Mark’s Gospel: 

2The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. 3He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” 4They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her. 5But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female, 7For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife] 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 10In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mk. 10:2-12)

Divorce was widespread in Judaism at that time, even though it was clear in the Scriptures that God loathes divorce. He linked it with violence. Through the Prophet Malachi he said:

16For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and the one who covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. You should be on guard, then, for your life, and you must not break faith. (Mal. 2:16)

With any divorce there is violence: spiritual, emotional, relational and sometimes physical violence. And the violence extends beyond the couple. There is violence at several levels in both the immediate and extended family and the greater community. And there is violence against God’s intention that man and woman together manifest the fullness of the image of God.

And yet, there is this bit from Deuteronomy, traditionally one of the teachings of Moses: 

1 When a man, after marrying a woman, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house, 2if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, 3and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house, or if this second man who has married her dies, 4then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage. (Dt. 24:1-4)

This passage requires a man to have a reason to dismiss his wife (something indecent which is not defined). In writing her a bill of divorce, he was stating that he relinquished all legal claims on her, freeing her from any obligation to him and allowing her to marry someone else.(However the primary focus here is about forbidding remarriage.)This provided some protection for the woman in a culture where it was unthinkable that a woman could live on her own. The purpose of the bill was not to endorse or even authorize divorce which was rather wide spread; rather it limited the consequences for the woman.

Jesus then explains the reason for the existence of Dt. 24:1-4 and other similar verses; it was “because of the hardness of your hearts.” Hardness of heart—sklerokardia—(think arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries) is the stubborn refusal to yield to God and his ways. (Mk. 10:5)

Jesus now brings the conversation over to the intended permanent nature of marriage. “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” He adds a warning, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” (The same applies to the woman—if she leaves her husband, she commits adultery against him.)

This is a radical statement in two ways: first it affirms the indissolubility of marriage, a teaching that was as challenging and countercultural then as it is today. Second, it recognizes that adultery is an offense that could be committed against a wife as well as against a husband. Jewish law and custom had viewed adultery as an offense only against a man, in that a wife was considered a sort of quasi-property (Ex. 20:17). Here Jesus acknowledges the total equality of man and woman and the mutual belonging of husband and wife in marriage.

With this pronouncement, Jesus also brings the teaching on suffering, self-denial, humility and service into the most intimate sphere of human life. It is the daily challenge of family relationships, in the struggle to live out God’s design for human love, especially lifelong fidelity to another fallen and imperfect person that “taking up the cross” has a most concrete application.

Again, we read from Genesis: 1: 27God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”

Scripture shows us that the triune God made man, male and female, to be the image of him fully in their communion of persons, a communion made possible precisely because of their sexual complementarity as revealed in the nuptial meaning of their bodies. This signifies that the male person is intended by God as a “gift” to the female person and vice versa. Male and female are to give themselves away to each other in love and to become one flesh and in so doing, they open themselves up to the gift of fertility which conveys more fully the God who made them.

To understand St. John Paul’s view of the sacrament of marriage, we once again must go back to God’s original intent. The Holy Father writes that…the concept of ‘image of God’[was intended to be expressed] through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning…Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. (TOB 9:3)

Even though there may be estrangement through various consequences of the Fall (lust and shame for example), God still offers the true complementarity of humanity through the sacrament of marriage.

St. John Paul writes: When they unite with each other in the conjugal act so closely as to become ‘one flesh,’ man and woman rediscover every time in a special way the mystery of creation, thus returning to the union of humanity (“flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones”) that allows them to recognize each other reciprocally and to call each other by name, as they did the first time. (TOB 10:2)

The pope cites Christ’s words in Matthew 5:27-28: You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

These words, St. John Paul declares: do not allow us to stop at the accusation of the human heart and to regard it continually with suspicion, but must be understood and interpreted above all as an appeal to the heart….Redemption is a truth….in the name of which man must feel called…He must realize this call through Christ’s words…reread in the context of the revelation of the body. Man must feel called to rediscover, nay more, to realize the nuptial meaning of the body and to express in this way the interior freedom of the gift, that is, of that spiritual state and that spiritual power which are derived from mastery of the lust of the flesh (46.4).

“Humanae Vitae”

Humanae Vitae—“Of Human Life”, is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and was issued on July 25, 1968. Subtitled, “On the Regulation of Birth,” it re-affirms the Church’s teaching regarding the sanctity of life, married love, responsible parenthood and the continued rejection of artificial birth control.

St. John Paul writes: In “Humanae Vitae” we read “Calling human beings back to the observance of natural law…the Church teaches that each and every marriage act must remain through itself open to the transmission of human life. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of conjugal act: in unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.” (HV.12) (TOB 118.5)

And St. John Paul uses stronger language: …when the conjugal act is deprived of its inner truth because it is deprived artificially of its procreative capacity, it also ceases to be an act of love… ( TOB 123:6)

“Theology of the Body” and Humanae Vitae     by Katrina J. Zeno, MTS

Want to ruin your next Thanksgiving dinner? Try dropping this line in the midst of the conversation: “Did you know John Paul II said the conjugal act artificially deprived of its procreative capacity also ceases to be an act of love? Pass the potatoes please…”

This is guaranteed to be a conversation stopper. In fact, you might get booted out because according to a recent Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive poll, 88% of Catholics polled supported easy-access to birth control information and over half supported sales of the “morning-after” pill.

This would surprise Paul VI who said in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, “We believe that the human beings of our day are particularly capable of seeing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle.” What principle was he referring to? Preserving the innermost structure of the conjugal act in which the union of husband and wife is inseparably connected with the capacity to conceive new life.

Rather than seeing the inseparable connection between love-making and life-making as deeply reasonable, our technological age regards it as an imposition. Biology and fertility can and should be controlled for our personal benefit, so the thinking goes. Therefore, the Church should get with the times and revise her teaching to acknowledge that contraceptive intercourse is as natural as a body builder taking steroids. It enhances performance, not detracts from it.

The key issue is not performance, but love. In a collection of reflections known as “The Theology of the Body,” John Paul II stated that we need an ever “clearer discovery of God’s plan for human love” since “the one and only true good of the human person consists in putting this divine plan into practice.”

Christianity, as the expression of the divine plan, is not a religion of separation, but of integration. It unites, rather than divides. We see this supremely in the Incarnation where divinity is united with humanity; it’s also inscribed in human nature where body is united with spirit.

In the most intimate love expression between a husband and wife, it’s clearly “reasonable” that God would not design separation as the goal, but union.

“The human body,” John Paul II says, “is not only the field of reactions of a sexual character, but it is at the same time the means of the expression of man as an integral whole…which reveals itself through the ‘language of the body.’”

In other words, we express the fullness of who we are through our bodies. Our sexual impulses do not determine us. Our rational freedom allows us to express the whole truth of our person through body and spirit working together.

Nowhere is this body-spirit integration more critical than in marriage and the marital union. John Paul II says the conjugal act perfects the consent husband and wife gave to each other at the altar. That’s a pretty extreme statement. Most people don’t connect what happens at the altar with what happens in the bedroom, and yet, the two cannot be separated.

Marriage, because it is a sacrament, is a sign of the indissoluble union between husband and wife. At the altar, bride and groom publically promise the whole of their life to each other: “for better or worse; in sickness and in health….” When they enter into conjugal union, John Paul II says, they are re-proposing the vows they made on their wedding day. They are saying again with their bodies what they said at the altar, “I give the whole of myself to you.”

As if that wasn’t enough, marriage is also a visible sign of Christ’s love for the Church. As John Paul II reminded us: “The spousal relationship that unites spouses, husband and wife, must…help us to understand the love that unites Christ with the Church.” In this love, Christ gives himself totally to the Church – both body and spirit – to bring about our holiness, our redemption.

Marital union is designed by God to mirror, to reflect, the wedding vows and Christ’s love for the Church. The “language of the body” expressed by husband and wife in every aspect of conjugal life is designed by God to say: “I give myself totally and irrevocably to you. I hold nothing back, including my fertility.”

John Paul II goes a step further: “Christ’s love, and therefore marital love, is redemptive as well as spousal. Spousal love is designed by God to be a means of grace.”

Those are humbling words to think that spouses can be a channel of the very life of God to each other and to a brand new human life through one-flesh union. To violate the inner truth of this bodily union by intentionally impeding the total gift of self (and grace) constitutes, John Paul II says, “the essential evil of the contraceptive act.” It brings dis-integration between body and spirit, a separation between conjugal life and love, which can tragically spill from the bedroom into the couple’s life as a whole. Physical contraception can lead to emotional and even spiritual contraception, where I withhold the whole of me from my spouse and God.

Does living redemptive and spousal love require heroic sacrifice? Absolutely. The difficulty in giving up contraception is, ironically, the struggle to integrate body and spirit. Without recourse to contraception, husband and wife must practice periodic abstinence in order to postpone pregnancy. This requires self-mastery, or what has traditionally been called chastity.

Ultimately, Humane Vitae, John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and 2000 years of Catholic Church teaching center on protecting and promoting chastity. Chastity is the integration of body and spirit so that we are free to give ourselves away according to our state in life and God’s design. It is, John Paul II says, “a progressive education in self-control of the will, of sentiment, of emotions,” in order to reach mastery over our sexual drive and arousal. In doing so, this opens up “interior room” within ourselves to “become ever more sensitive to the deeper and more mature values” inherent in divine and human love.

But won’t abstaining from sexual union interfere with the expression of love between husband and wife? The concern is valid. John Paul II’s response moves the question from a single frame (sexual union) to the entire motion picture (all of marital life): “The task of conjugal chastity…lies not only in protecting the importance and dignity of the conjugal act in relation to its potentially procreative meaning, but also in safeguarding the importance and dignity proper to the conjugal act inasmuch as it expresses interpersonal union, by revealing to the consciousness…of the spouses all the other possible ‘manifestations’ that are to express their deep communion.”

Sexual intimacy is one (albeit very important, life-giving, and grace-channeling) dimension of conjugal life but it is an expression of the couple’s entire life of total, self-giving love. Ultimately, such a life in which union and procreation, body and spirit, spousal love and redemptive love are integrated and held in inseparable esteem matures in fully developed personalities enriched with spiritual values. Deep, personal communion is fostered from the breakfast table to the dinner dishes especially when abstinence is the order of the day. Total self-giving in the bedroom becomes total, redemptive self-giving in every aspect of daily life. That’s indeed something every human being is capable of seeing as deeply reasonable – and fulfilling.

St. John Paul wrote: Christian spouses are therefore the reminder to the Church of what happened on the cross. (Familiaris Consortio 48/49)

Total, self-giving love.



Week 2 The Fall

 Week 2 The Fall  Comments Off on Week 2 The Fall
Mar 142017

The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents. (CCC #390)

In addressing the topic of “Original Sin,” Pope Benedict XVI states that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking illustrated by the images of the Book of “Genesis”…The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the Serpent, [each human] harbors the suspicion…that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside…Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of life from God…And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Dec. 8, 2005)

But all is not lost. To keep this in perspective, it must be said that after the Fall, Moral Natural Law continued to be present in humans. 

The Catechism teaches that: [Each and every human] participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie. 

The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every [human being] because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin. . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted. (CCC #1954)

The Church’s teaching about “The Fall” is that it was not a complete fall. In other words, the Church does not have the understanding of Protestant Calvinism, or that of the Catholic heresy known as “Jansenism” (a term coined by Jesuits who were the primary combatants against this heresy based on the thought of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen.)

There was a particularly onerous scrupulosity about Jansenism which mistrusted the human conscience and humanity’s innate ability to rationally choose to do good as well as evil. The Jansenists had great difficulty with “Natural Moral Law” which affirms that all people have an inborn capacity to discern and then implement that which is good, that which God would have us do. Finally under the pontificate of Clement XI in 1715, the Catholic Church renounced Jansenism as a heresy.

In refining his thoughts about the “Theology of the Body,” St. John Paul readily referred to the story of the Fall from Genesis 3: 

Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” 2The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”

The woman embellished God’s directive to Adam. This is what God actually said back in Chapter 2:16-17: 

16The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden 17except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Note that the woman inflated the command from God when she is conversing with Satan in the guise of the snake. Perhaps the man may have embroidered God’s instructions when he shared them with the woman. We don’t know. However, God mentioned nothing about touching the tree. Many scholars think that by adding to the command, the woman had been obsessing about the tree and thereby leaving herself open to temptation.

4But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! 5God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” 6The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 

St. John Paul taught that there are many aspects of “The Fall,” but there are three distinct yet intertwined manifestations which greatly impede relationships between men and women and with God and are central to his teachings about the “Theology of the Body:”



Broken Communion 



St. John Paul writes that shame is a …fracture in the human person’s interior, a breakup, as it were, of man’s original spiritual and somatic [physical body]. He realizes for the first time that his body has ceased drawing on the power of the spirit, which raised him to the level of the image of God. Its shame bears within itself the signs of a specific humiliation mediated by the body. (TOB 28:2)

Shame is one of the more devastating results of the Fall. In the state of “original innocence” Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Good and Evil and therefore no sense of being ashamed. Then at the prompting of the “evil one,” (who came in the guise of a snake) they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. They suddenly became aware of the attraction of sin and its consequences and yet they chose to succumb and the result was that they felt ashamed.

Symbolic of this shame was the need to cover their nakedness. Nakedness here goes beyond literal, physical nakedness. It also symbolizes shame and the desire to hide when we realize that we have offended God. God’s original intent for humans was that their bodies were a clear sign of God’s image. Its masculinity and femininity together were a single sign of mutual, self-giving love. Adam’s words I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid (vs 10) marks the dramatic change in human relations with God.

Adam lost the innate understanding that the image of God is expressed in his body. He has lost the peace and joy that come from God’s original intent. He has lost the purpose of God’s meaning of creation when God saw his creation and proclaimed that it was “very good.” (Gen. 1:21) Fear arose. There came a deep need to hide, or at least to “cover up.” For Adam and Eve clothing became a sign of the Fall. It was a manifestation of their alienation—a rejection of God’s love.

St. John Paul writes: “By casting doubt on his heart on the deepest meaning of the gift, that is, on love as the specific motive of creation and the original covenant (see Gen. 3:5), man turns his back on God-love, on the “Father.” He in some sense casts him from his heart. (TOB 26:4)

In addition to his estrangement from God, Adam also became estranged from Eve; for both the man and the woman, motivated by shame, strove to hide their nakedness from each other. For the first time man and woman became aware of their bodies. They viewed them as almost foreign things. What was once an expression of holiness, something aglow with the love of God, became the symbol of self-preoccupation, shame and estrangement.

In order for us to understand his argument, St. John Paul refers to a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:

18For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. 19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. 20Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. 22For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, 23 but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? (Rom.7:14-21)


In the state of original innocence, the body was fully illumined by and integrated with the Spirit. Now, something within the body is at war with the spirit. The unity of the person is fractured.

This is specifically demonstrated by lust. When lust comes to the forefront, the human doesn’t control the body with ease. Rational self-control is essential to the moral integrity of human beings. Lust attacks the person at the core by throwing body and spirit out of balance.

Shame between persons is connected with this imbalance. It is especially highlighted by sexuality. This is evident by Gen. 3: 7 where we read: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Shame centers on those parts of the body that, in the call to unity, allow two persons to become “one flesh.” Instead of a spiritual/physical unity revealing the image of God, the human body now seems to be a physical object. This is the origin and manifestation of lust.

St. John Paul argues that humans are ashamed of their nakedness because of lust. The body itself is not shameful, but the law of lust operating within the body is. By treating the body as an object, lust misuses the original gift of the body and sexuality.

Shame reveals the threat posed by the person in lust. By covering those parts of the body that reveal our sexuality, we express modesty, which is a defense mechanism against lust. Ever since sin entered the world, human beings have covered the body to preserve its value.

Although lust has ruptured the unity of the spirit and body, it hasn’t entirely won the day. Shame reveals that the memory of our innocence is still alive. Christ’s Incarnation appeals to this sense of the body’s worth, which remains in the heart of every person.

Broken Communion

St. John Paul taught that because the man and woman together bear God’s image, and because God is a community of persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), man and woman were created to be in intimate communion—just as the Triune Godhead is intimate communion among the members of the Trinity. For the man and woman, this is expressed by their complementary bodies. God’s original intent was that the complementarity of man and woman was to express a unity that was along the lines of the Blessed Trinity. The Fall trashed this. 

We read in Genesis chapter 3, beginning with verse eight: 8When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? 10He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” 11Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? 12The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” 13The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.” 

Note the casting of blame. Man blamed the woman and the woman blamed the snake. Rather than being accountable and repentant for their actions, both the man and woman immediately sought to cast the guilt of their disobedience on another. This both caused and symbolized a permanent rift between each other and with God. It is manifested by avoiding responsibility for personal misconduct which puts up barriers and breaks down full communion with each other and with God.

At the Fall, this communion, which was akin to the community of the Blessed Trinity, was shattered. The primary result is that sexual shame gave cause to doubt whether the body is still capable of forming the true, self-giving communion that God originally intended. Of course Adam and Eve did not stop communicating. They continued to use language, gestures and facial expressions. But the simple, direct communication of mutual nakedness caused the man and woman to be focused on their differences rather than their compatibility, their communion.

As a consequence, God turns to the woman and says—I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. (Gen.3:16a) The original intent of procreation was to bring joy and peace and fulfillment to God and to the man and woman. Now it will necessitate much work and pain—not just in the child bearing, but in the child-rearing.

Then God describes how woman will relate to man in the state of sinfulness: Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Gen. 3:16b)

Of special importance for the Theology of the Body is the debasement of sexual functions and male-female relationships. In place of the “nuptial meaning of the body” by which man and wife were intended to become “two in one flesh,” lust, male domination and oppression of women resulted in an all too often mutual male-female hostility.

Because humans had rejected God’s offer of intimacy, which would have gratuitously spared them from the natural necessity of dying, adam would return to the adamah—that is Man would return to the dust from which he came. Meanwhile, fear of death would become a major hindrance to humans and an instrument for the devil’s purposes.

Today perhaps the most extreme rejection of God’s design comes in the form of polygamous marriages and male-male and female-female “marriages.”

These indicate a fundamental transformation of God’s original intent for man and woman. His plan was for one man and one woman to find happiness in giving and receiving each other fully. This joyful self-giving and receiving was to be fully expressed in both body and soul, in the holy union of the masculine and the feminine. And this happiness was to be enhanced by blessing of fertility and procreation.

The words from Gen. 3:16 indicate how God’s beautiful plan for sexual union has been distorted by shame and lust and broken communion. Sin broke the original communion between the man and woman and put them at odds. Their sexuality which was intended for union became a source of division.

St John Paul emphasizes, however, that despite all the residual effects of the Fall, man and woman are created for one another in the state of marriage. Every person is called from eternity to exist in communion. Sin did not destroy sexual union as was willed by the Creator from the beginning. (That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. Gen. 2:24) But the Fall did bring about this particularly destructive element—lust.

In the 2nd Chapter of the Epistle of 1 John we learn of three forms of lust: 16For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.

These three: (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) inordinate pride, find their beginnings in the Fall. When God says to the woman that he shall rule over you. (Gen. 3:16b), this is a statement about a “pretentious life” or inordinate pride. The original intent was for complete harmony between man and woman. Instead there will be miscommunication and distorted desire on the part of both.

St. John Paul also teaches that through sin, humans have lost the fullness of the image of God. Lust, of the flesh, the eyes and the pride of life, are all foreign to being truly in the image of God. It is part of our fallen nature.

St. John Paul argued that lust arises from the heart. Lust is the result of sin. Lust is not food, but hunger, not fullness, but emptiness.

Lust is a barrier to unity. It keeps man and woman from experiencing a truly loving, unifying sexual union, something that is a pure, self-giving communion of persons. It is the root of shame and its fruit is broken communion.

Rift Between Man and the World

The Fall also brings about a rift between humanity and the earth. From this point on, when ever man will work the ground, he will face hostility and hardship:

Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life.18Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. 19By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.(Gen. 3:17b-19)






Introduction: “From the Beginning”: God’s Original Intent

 Week 1 Introduction: From the Beginning  Comments Off on Introduction: “From the Beginning”: God’s Original Intent
Mar 082017


Theology of the Body is the subject of a series of 129 lectures given by Pope St. John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square and the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall between September 5, 1979 and November 28, 1984. It was the first major teaching of his pontificate. The complete addresses were later compiled and developed in many of John Paul’s encyclicals, letters, and exhortations.

In Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II teaches that man and woman were created, so that together they would reveal fully the “Image of God.” In this course of study the Holy Father examines humanity before the “Fall,” after it, and at the Resurrection of the dead. He reflects on the sexual complementarity of man and woman. He explores the nature and purpose of marriage, “The Fall,” celibacy, virginity and resurrection. He expands on the teachings of Humanae vitae which addresses God’s intention for husbands and wives, in fact for all human life.

Underlying Theology of the Body is the understanding that individual human beings are to be seen “holistically.” (Note the ironic and intentional connection with the word “holy.”) In other words the Body and the Soul/Spirit cannot be viewed strictly as separate entities.

St. John Paul harkens back to Manichaeism…which sprang up in the Orient from Mazdean dualism, that is, outside the biblical sphere. [It] saw the source of all evil in matter, in the body, and therefore condemned all that is bodily in man. And since bodiliness manifests itself above all through (one’s) sex, the condemnation was extended to marriage and conjugal life and to all the spheres of being and acting in which bodiliness expresses itself.” (Theology of the Body 44:5) For Christians there is no such dualism; holiness includes both body and soul.

The Holy Father puts particular emphasis on the physical body. For example the Apostles’ Creed affirms that there will be a “resurrection of the body.”

The Holy Father writes: The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it. (John Paul II General Audience Feb. 20. 1980)

These and other topics will be the subjects of this cursory reflection on St. John-Paul’s very important insights into the human condition. It must be emphasized that his work is highly sophisticated and well- nuanced and this course will only offer a brief rudimentary, cursory, and rather unsatisfactory glimpse.

St. John Paul begins with an encounter between Jesus and a group Pharisees:

(Mt. 19:3-8) 3 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” 4 He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 7 They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” 8 He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…

The reference “from the beginning” indicates the importance of God’s original intent, over against what the Church now calls “concupiscence” or the innate tendency to sin as a result of the “Fall.” This ongoing tendency to sin lead Moses to capitulate in several instances, including divorce, probably out of frustration. But this was never God’s intention. Jesus was arguing against changing that which God originally intended for human beings.

The reference in this passage from Matthew to a more perfect situation “from the beginning” recognizes that much of the Old Testament treatment of sexuality and marriage has taken place within the setting of a fallen human race and of consequent concessions to human sinfulness. In Theology of the Body the pope reflects on scriptural narratives that provide some revelatory clues to the original created status of humans (i.e., as “very good”—Gen. 1:21) before the contemporary fallen and impaired situation that resulted from their sin.

The Pope writes:

Reflecting on the ancient text of Genesis proves to be irreplaceable. It constitutes really the “beginning” of the theology of the body. The fact that the theology includes the body should not astonish or surprise anyone who is conscious of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation. Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology—that is the science that has divinity for its object—I would say, through the main door. The Incarnation, and the redemption that flows from it, has also become the definitive source of the sacramentality of marriage…(TOB 23:4)

The Holy Father refers to the two creation accounts: 

(Gen. 1:26-27; 2:24)Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. 27God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body 

This is a statement of “original intent.”

The Pope then addresses the second creation account:

Genesis 2:4-8, 15-25

This is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens 5there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground, 6but a stream was welling up out of the earth and watering all the surface of the ground 7then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

(There is a pun here in the Hebrew text. The word for man is “Adam” and the word for dust is “Adama;” man is created from the dust of ground.)

8The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

15The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. 16The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden 17except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

18The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. 19So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. 20The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.

21So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, 23the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.”

[From the footnotes in the USCCB Bible: The man recognizes an affinity with the woman God has brought him. Unlike the animals who were made from the ground, she is made from his very self. There is a play on the similar-sounding Hebrew words (ishsha “woman,” “wife” and ’ish “man,” “husband”). The man gives his wife a more specific name than (“woman”) vs. 2:23 The Hebrew name hawwa (“Eve”) is related to the Hebrew word “hay” (“living”); “mother of all the living” points forward to the next episode involving her sons Cain and Abel.]

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.25The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

The pope notes two things: original solitude, and original unity. Original solitude is the experience of Adam, prior to the creation of Eve, when he realizes that through naming the animals there is something intrinsically different about himself. He is unable to find a suitable partner among the animals. This self-realization of a dignity before God that is higher than the rest of creation is original solitude.

This is key: When God-Yahweh says, ‘It is not good that man is alone’ (Gen.2:18), he affirms that ‘alone,’ the man does not completely realize his essence. He realizes it only by existing “with someone” and, put even more deeply and completely, by existing “for someone.”…They point out how fundamental and constituitive the relationship and the communion of persons is for man. (TOB 14:2)

Original unity is drawn from man’s first encounter with woman, where he exclaims “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). This also includes human sexuality, which is a central theme of St. John Paul’s teaching. The pope’s basic tenant is that the contemporary expression of sexuality, especially since the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s, is fallen and distorted, and not revelatory of God’s creative intention.

The Pope strives to recover in God’s revelation in Genesis the primordial created goodness and meaning of sexuality, before human rebellion and the consequent debasement of sexuality from its original goodness in God’s created order.

The unity between Adam and Eve, our first parents, speaks to a mutual belonging. Because sexuality is a gift from God’s original intent, then along with procreation, sex was and is intended for sacramental mutual bonding, mutual belonging.

In contrast, St. John Paul wrote that, lust, objectifying the other person, distorts this sense of mutual belonging. In the language of love, ‘my’ refers to the guarded gift. In the language of lust, ‘my’ refers to an object of possession. (Theology of the Body in Simple Language. P72). This deep, intimate sharing of mutual belonging is part and parcel of God’s original intent.

Prior to the “The Fall,” the pope teaches that man and woman’s desire for one another was perfectly oriented in a Sacramental way that pointed them toward God’s ultimate plan for humanity: the marriage of Christ the bridegroom with his bride the Church.

Throughout Sacred Scripture, the most common reference that Christ uses when speaking of heaven is that of a wedding feast. Thus, marriage is intended to be a union that draws us deeper into the mystery of our creation and provides a foretaste of the heavenly marriage between Christ and his Church, where man and woman are no longer given in marriage. In heaven, the eternal wedding feast, men and women have now arrived at their ultimate destination and no longer have need of the Sacrament (or sign) of marriage.

Prior to the Fall, there was no fear, no anxiety, no anger, no competition, no need to dominate nor coerce. All things were harmoniously in balance. Nothing had to either suffer or die in order for something or someone else to live.

Gen. 2: 21-24 21So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, 23the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

The Holy Father observes that it is in this state of “Original Solitude” that depicts Adam’s yearning for companionship. The creation of the woman after the man does not imply the subordination of women to men. Rather, the Lord’s creation of woman from man emphasizes the close connection between them and lays the groundwork for sacramental marriage.

The point of verse 24 is that men are to be different from the males of the animal world who regularly mate and move on to the next partner. A man wishes his wife to be with him always. Promiscuity is thus a degradation of God’s intentions in creating human beings male and female. Although polygamy was rampant at the time of the writing of this account of creation, it indicates the ideal Edenic condition is monogamy.

An aspect of this is that the man and the woman were both unashamedly naked.

(2:25) The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Shame has to do with being “self-conscious.” To understand this more fully, the Holy Father reminds us of man’s original solitude, his aloneness among the other living creatures. This solitude and the consequent creation of his co-equal, the woman, prepared the way for Adam and Eve’s joy in discovering their shared humanity. And it is important to point out that this discovery was made possible by their bodies. The naked body of each was the visible source of this realization which established their unity.

God’s intent is for man and woman to use their bodies to express their interior selves into a complete, holy communion. Original nakedness can only be understood in terms of communion. It is a full disclosure to one another, just as we are fully disclosed to God. As the author of Hebrews states: No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb. 4:13)

Week 6 Love, Hospitality, Service and Conclusion

 Week 6  Comments Off on Week 6 Love, Hospitality, Service and Conclusion
Dec 092013

I Peter 4: 7-11

7The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. 8Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 11Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter now reminds the faithful that Christ may return at any moment and they should be ready. He says that the “last days” are upon them and they should not forget this.

There are three things in particular that the faithful should observe:

1. They need to be “serious and sober for prayers” (vs. 7). To be “serious” (Grk. Sophroneo) means to be sensible and clear-minded. To be “sober” is a theme Peter returns to throughout the letter. (1:3; 5:8).

2. Peter does not specify either the kinds of prayer or the content of prayers, but there is a sense of the importance of intercession in the second practice he emphasizes “above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”(vs. 8)

What does he mean by saying “love covers a multitude of sins”? The background to this statement is Proverbs 10:12 “love covers all offenses.” The meaning of the word “covers” may well be linked to “ignoring” or “overlooking.” If we can overlook the sins of others with a loving attitude, we can be a blessing to them, and to ourselves. This overlooking may very well prompt God to “overlook” our sins in response.

3. Peter enjoins the faithful to “be hospitable to one another without complaining.” (Vs. 9) Hospitality is highly prized throughout Scriptures. In the first century hospitality included welcoming traveling apostles and other Christians. Hospitality also carries with it the sense of welcoming other Christians into your home for worship, especially Eucharistic worship. There was also the sense of sharing meals together.

Peter then gives general exhortation on using spiritual gifts for building up the Church: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”(vs. 10) This is an admonition that ties in with the importance of corporate identity, participation in the Community of the Faithful. Gifts given to individuals are to be used for the common good. St. Paul emphasizes this as well (See Rom. 12:3-8; and 1 Cor. 12:4-11). Note also that each one has been given a spiritual gift; part of our task is to discern the gift and then use it for the furtherance of the Kingdom!

Peter concludes this section making reference to preaching and serving, advising that both must be God-motivated activities. This is to be done “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever.”(Vs. 11)

Reprise: Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ (4:12-19)

12Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.16But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.17For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? 18“And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” 19As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

In this section Peter restates and develops what he has already said about suffering for the sake of Christ. First, Peter teaches that our suffering is actually a participation in the suffering and is an occasion for rejoicing for the mature in the Faith.

Second, he declares that right in the midst of their suffering, the Spirit of the Messiah rests upon those who are suffering and this is the source of great consolation.

Finally he explains that God uses suffering to purify the Christian community, God’s household. God uses the abuse that the pagans unjustly heap on Christians to prepare his people for the return of the Lord.

Peter’s message is one that we may not want to hear. We may wonder why God is allowing all this suffering, acknowledging that we do live in a broken world beset by sin. Peter reminds us that this suffering is “discipline,” not in the sense of punishment, but in the sense of being transformed. Our task is to surrender, to “hand over” our lives, to convert fully to the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings.

I am reminded of the tension of two different kinds of maturity. One is maturity in the world where we express our maturity by “thinking our own thoughts,” “feeling our own feelings,” making good decisions, being a responsible person by being engaged and yet maintaining appropriate boundaries and so on.

In contrast, maturity in Christ is surrender, acknowledging that every breath that we take, every beat of our heart, every cell that divides in our bodies is possible only by the Grace of God. The suffering in our lives reminds us of God’s sovereignty. It’s like the old saying “I know there is a God, and it’s not me.” When we pray in the “Our Father” “Thy Kingdom comes” that means that my kingdom has to go away.

Conclusion (1 Peter 5:1-14)

1So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. 2Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 3Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” 6So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 8Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 10The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. 11To him be dominion forever. Amen. 12I write you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it.13The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.14Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

For the second time in the letter, Peter expresses himself in the first person (cf. 2:11). He identifies with the “elders” (presbyters), the witnesses “to the suffering of Christ,” and as one who “has a share in glory to be revealed.” (vs. 1) He admonishes the elders in particular to be faithful in tending the flock.

He then cautions the young members to obey the “elders,” and then he calls everyone to “humility.” In so doing he calls them to “cast all…worries upon (Christ) because he cares for you.” And then he gives a stern warning: “Be sober, be vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” (vs 8-9)

Finally Peter closes the letter with an admonition to share “a loving kiss” with one another in the community. This of course is the basis of the “kiss of peace” at Eucharist, a most appropriate reminder that we are to know that at the base of our ongoing faithfulness, we are promised that wonderful “peace of God which passes all understanding”.