32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Nov 6, 2022
Unable to attend his father’s funeral, a son who lived far away called his younger brother and told him, “Do something nice for Dad and send me the bill.”
Later, he received a bill for $200.00 which he paid. The next month, he received another bill for $200.00 which he also paid, figuring it was some incidental expense.
But bills for $200.00 kept arriving every month. So the older brother called his younger brother to find out what was going on.
“Well,” said the younger brother, “you said to do something nice for Dad and you’d pay. So I rented him a tuxedo.”
The younger brother rented that tux because he wanted his dad to look great in the Kingdom of God! But more importantly, that younger brother had faith in the resurrection!
Yes, it’s our Christian belief in the resurrection from the dead which proclaims, to all the world, that our lives don’t end in death, and that the elect don’t remain disembodied spirits either. Far from it! The resurrection of the dead proclaims that to be human means that we’re psychophysical unities —that we’re a union of body and soul! So what we do with our bodies on earth matters, and how we use our bodies to give glory, honor and praise to God matters! Indeed, the Christian faith professes that the elect will be glorified, embodied spirits in the age to come! And that is indeed something to look forward to!
Before we receive our glorified body united to our eternal soul, though, each of us has been given a certain amount of time on this earth, to learn how to freely give our hearts, minds, and souls and every fibre of our being, to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Part of that learning process, though, sometimes results in our resisting the invitation of the Holy Spirit to holiness and to union with God. The end result is that we fall into sin. Indeed, St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans 6:23 that “the wages of is death.”
It’s sin then, that makes it necessary for us to die, to decay, and to turn into dust. It’s sin which keeps us from living the life of the new creation, each and every day. It’s sin that deludes us into thinking that we have no soul, that our lives have no meaning, that there is no God who created us, who loves us, and who redeems us. It’s sin that attempts to get us to believe that our bodies are only vessels of sinful temptation that need to be subjugated by pain, if necessary to the desires of the spirit. It’s that kind of negative theology of the body though, that resulted in many centuries of Christians beating up on their bodies, scourging and whipping themselves with metal claws, and thereby disrespecting God’s very creation, by placing their soul’s value, well over-and-above, the value of their body in every respect.
But guess what? That’s the last thing God wants us to do to our bodies. St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies “are temples of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit dwells within us!” Recall that our bodies were fashioned into the image and the likeness of God. Recall that Jesus took on human flesh and lived among us! Recall that God looked upon man and woman whom he had created and saw that his creation was —-not just good —-but Very Good. Recall that Jesus returned three days after his death, in a glorified human body, united to his glorified human soul, and promised that each believer in God would have a glorified body and soul at the end of time, as well!
It’s for all these body-affirming reasons that we have masses of Christian burial when one of our loved ones dies. We respect the body of our departed loved one by saying prayers over it or its remains, because we know that they will receive a glorified body in the resurrection of the dead. Indeed, we believe that our new bodies will beautifully and fully reflect the glory of God in the new heavens and the new earth! So whether we preserve our body in a casket or cremate our body into dust, we’re called to honor it with Christian burial on consecrated ground until the day when our Lord returns.
Today, the theological pendulum has swung in the opposite direction with regard to the relationship of body and soul. Today, we see many people taking great physical care of their bodies, but don’t do a thing for their souls, or their spiritual selves. They may go on the latest fad diets or buy the most expensive brand-name clothing, just to look good. They may spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships and exercise equipment and may even mortgage their family homes, so that their children can play hockey. But they just can’t find even one hour in a day to quietly meditate or to spend time with the Lord, to hear God’s voice in the scriptures, to receive the Eucharist or to celebrate reconciliation, or to open themselves up to the wider spiritual reality all around them through some other spiritual exercise.
Indeed, it’s this lack of faith being put into practice that’s the root cause of many of the social problems and societal ills, plaguing our nation and our world today. The way to recover a healthy balance between the body and soul is by not neglecting either one, and not favoring one over the other. That means doing what’s important to keep ourselves physically fit while, at the same time, making equal effort to remain spiritually fit. Recognizing our psycho-physical unity as human beings created to praise, honor, and glorify God is essential to this daily living.
A danger every Christian faces today is the temptation to live without faith, as if the resurrection of Christ hadn’t occurred, that we’re somehow, still lost in our own sinfulness— that we can never change our destructive patterns of living — that we’re just a body and nothing more than that, after we die.
As Christians, we must resist these dangers, and live, each day, as sons and daughters of God, redeemed from our sins by the Precious Blood of Christ shed on the cross, justified by faith in Him, and sanctified, each day, by the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, living, acting, breathing, and moving in us! What’s more, our Christian faith challenges us to look forward to the day when we’ll be forever united, in body and soul, with the Lord in the Kingdom that lasts forever.
Until that day comes, we have a special grace from God, which St. Paul tells us about, in his second letter to the Thessalonians today, when he proclaims, “The Lord is faithful. He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thess. 3:3) Yes, just as God freely gifts us with faith, God himself also demonstrates his own faithfulness to us, as his sons and daughters, and as heirs to the Kingdom of God, by giving us strength to endure the tough times in life, and by helping us to withstand temptations to sin. But we must do something in return. We must turn to him in our need and ask for his intercession. We must live as psycho-physical unities!
The great news is that, unlike us, God can’t ever be unfaithful! God can’t ever give up hope in our turning again to him when we sin! God can’t ever negate his love for us or make us earn our salvation by our striving to be perfect. No, the Lord is faithful all the time!
To help us, the Lord gives us his Divine Word, in order that we might be changed by the grace contained therein! He also seeks to inspire, in us, a fervent desire to lead a holy life, despite the many obstacles that we confront, tempting us to throw in the towel, all-together, on having an authentic relationship with God! The Lord wants his faithfulness toward us, to bolster our confidence in Him! He wants his faithfulness to give us the impetus to boldly ask for the graces we need from God to live our vocations boldly, fully, and generously!
Ultimately, the Lord wants his faithfulness and his love, to remove all fear of death, because as Christians, we’ve been told what awaits those who are God’s disciples! For our part, we have to take some time, each day, to assess how faithful we’ve been, to the graces God has given us, since our baptism, to be his holy sons and daughters. Our Easter Candle reminds us of this every time it’s lit! And where we’re still lacking, the Lord urges us to ask for the graces we still need, in particular circumstances to advance toward the Kingdom.
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