Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (B)

We are back in the Ordinary Time and just for a little bit because this year the beginning of Lent is very soon: February 22 is Ash Wednesday [I know! Time is flying and we are getting old]. Today I would like to focus in on our second reading, a reading about morality, specifically sexual morality. I know: hard topic. You know, when people tell me in confession that they struggle with sexual temptations, I usually mention to them that when we stop struggling we should take our pulse because we will probably be dead[1].

St. Paul addresses his letter to people who lived in Corinth. That was the ancient equivalent of Sin City. Most of the people of the pagan world engaged in manifest immorality, but some of the worst were those in Corinth. They even had their own saying to justify their behavior.  No, it wasn’t, “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.”  It was, food is for the stomach and the stomach for food. And St. Paul tells them and tells us that we are so much better than that. Our bodies belong to God; I mean that we are members of the Body of Christ. We are far more than animals with nothing but animal instincts. He goes on to use a very important phrase: our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. If we are immoral, we are sinning against our own bodies, sinning against our union with Christ.

That is a beautiful concept: we are Temples of the Holy Spirit. This concept could help us to understand why we avoid immorality. It is not a matter of some sort of Catholic No No, rules, we do our best to fight off our temptations because we are united to Christ. We are not animals.  We are so much better than that.

Let me give you a good example. As probably know the most beautiful chapel in the world is the Sistine chapel[2], and it is great because of the artwork inside it. Every year, hundred of thousands of visitors see the paintings of the creation. The frescos are, as you know, nudes. They emphasize the beauty of the human body with God himself as the source of this beauty. In those paintings the creation of man begins with God touching Adam’s hand and concludes with the creation of Eve. Adam needed Eve and Eve needed Adam to overcome the loneliness of the human condition. They needed to give themselves totally to each other. And here is the message behind these paintings: the only way that we can find ourselves is by giving ourselves away. In other words: we are made in the image of God. We are created in the image of the love between the Holy Trinity. When Adam and Eve gave themselves to each other, they felt no shame. They could be naked. Shame came when they began to use each other.

Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke about this in his Theology of the Body[3]. He said that human happiness depends on self-giving, not self-assertion. That is the difference between love and lust. Love makes a gift of oneself to another for the other’s good. Lust is taking from another for personal pleasure. For us Catholics, sexual morality is more than self-control. It is self-mastery. For us sexual morality is the mastery of the desire that allows us to give ourselves to another in a way that affirms the other.

So how should we teach this to our children, adolescents and Teens? Well, our emphasis should be on our human dignity as well as the dignity of others. We need to teach our children to respect their own bodies as well as those of others. We should extend our “good-touch, bad-touch” lessons to the little ones to include how they treat themselves and how they treat others. We need to assure our adolescents that the changes that are rushing through their lives are gifts from God. We need to assure them that they are not animals. And yes, in high school and college they probably will be tempted to enter into immoral relationships, but instead of facilitating these temptations, we need to strengthen our Teens by reaffirming in them that relations outside of marriage violate the integrity of love as giving because they lack promise and commitment.

I invite ask you, to reflect again on Paul’s message to the Corinthians, and us: do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price, the Body of Christ on the cross.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.

This is not the way of the world. But we are called to holiness, to be separated from the world. Sexual morality itself is one of the many ways that we express this holiness.

So today, as always, we pray that we may we have the courage to be Catholic and to live a pure life, a life full of light and courage and purity ■

[1] Sunday 15th January, 2012, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will—Ps 39(40):2, 4, 7-10. 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20. John 1:35-42.
[3] Theology of the Body is the topic of a series of 129 lectures given by Pope John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences in the Pope Paul VI Hall between September 1979 and November 1984. It was the first major teaching of his pontificate. The complete addresses were later compiled and expanded upon in many of John Paul's encyclicals, letters, and exhortations. The delivery of the Theology of the Body series did have interruptions. For example, the Wednesday audiences were devoted to other topics during the Holy Year of Redemption in 1983. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris