The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2018 – Cycle B
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42
Do you consider yourself free?
Before you answer that question you may want to reflect on how you understand the word, ‘freedom’. If you consider yourself free, to what extent are you free? Is it in all things? Or are there limits to freedom.
The Corinthian Church had a slogan. Like our society, they liked sound bites. Sound bites are easy to remember but they lack depth of thought. Nike’s “Just do it”. Do what? Macy’s “Believe”. Believe what? Sound bites are good for advertising political views to sneakers or for not making a commitment: “I’m not religious but I’m very spiritual.” What does that mean?
In misunderstanding Paul’s preaching about freedom in Jesus Christ, the Corinthians came up with a slogan: “Everything is lawful for me.” Is it now? When Paul preached that we are free in Jesus Christ, he a Jew, did not impose circumcision or Jewish dietary laws on the young Greek Christian community. You didn’t need to become Jewish to become a Christian. BUT Paul also preached that freedom in Jesus Christ entailed – the cross. We hear what we want to hear. And what the Corinthian Christians heard was, if every kind of food is lawful, let’s apply that to sexual behaviour. After all isn’t sex just one more physical need like eating and drinking? The Corinthians loved sex outside of marriage. Sound familiar?
Is the Corinthian slogan, “Everything is lawful for me,” true? Is sexual activity just satisfying one more appetite? Obviously the litany of notable men accused of sexual harassment of women think so. People who use casual sex “hook up” sites and apps think so. Pedophiles and ephebophiles think so. People who are addicted to pornography think so. Adulterers think so. “Everything is lawful for me.”
Now, if you are a victim of sexual harassment, if you are lonely, have low self-esteem and end up entangled in a “hook up” situation or caught in the web of adultery, you might feel and think otherwise. And even if both parties are supposedly consenting, can just feeding an appetite satisfy?
In the Greek myth of King Erysichthon of Thessaly, he is punished by the goddess Demeter for cutting down a sacred tree with an insatiable hunger which drives him in the end to devour himself. Appetites are never satisfied until they have destroyed us.
People have ridiculed the Catholic Church as being overly concerned with sexuality. But take note of what Paul writes: “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,…” In every case of the misuse of the sacred gift of human sexuality it is because the sacredness of the human body, the dwelling place of God, is desecrated. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Paul asks us.
Various peoples, philosophies, cultures and theologies, past and present, have made a distinction between the body and the spirit. The body is good, mostly bad, and usable but also disposable. The spirit is what is good and eternal. This distinction is not Christian belief.
We believe the whole human being, body and soul are created in the image and likeness of God.
We believe the eternal and living God of Israel became a human being in Jesus of Nazareth (Christmas).
We believe Jesus’ human body was tortured and executed for our salvation (Good Friday).
We believe this Jesus is alive and dwells in a raised, glorified, resurrected body in the fullness of divinity (Easter).
We believe we have been given a promise to live this glorification of our whole being, body and soul forever with God (Assumption of the Virgin).
At the heart of our worship of God are the words: “Take this and eat of it. This is my body”. To which at Communion we respond: “Amen!”
That is why I spoke about our burial rites in November as honoring the body, the dwelling place of God.
The Catholic Church is not overly interested in sexuality but the wholeness of the human person, body and soul of which sexual behaviour is good and sacred and yet a misunderstood and limited part often leading to desecration and sin. Paul will toss the Corinthian slogan back in their faces: “Everything is lawful for me, but”, he says, “not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful for me,” but”, he writes, “I will not let myself be dominated by anything.”
How do you perceive of your body?
Is it sacred? Do you care for it, give it rest, exercise it, feed it properly?
How do you perceive sexual activity?
Is it a sacred act? Or a selfish one? Does it celebrate a committed relationship or use another person? Are we using our bodies to glorify God?
Though everything may be lawful, are you and I free – in Jesus Christ?