Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Three Thoughts That Have Changed My Life

This Thursday, Rebecca and I are flying up to Western Canada and I'll be giving an all day seminar on the Theology of the Body (please pray for us!). We can't wait to share this message with our brothers and sisters "up north" .... (and seeing the Canadian Rockies is a wee bit exciting, I'm not gonna lie!)

I was asked not long ago to share what I thought might be the three most powerful thoughts to come from a study of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body (a series of biblical reflections written by the late Pope John Paul II, called "one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries." It addresses some of the most fundamental and important questions of human existence!)

Well, here are the three things that continually fill me with wonder and awe, and are daily becoming the tripod on which I stand to view God, Life and Everything in Between...

1. The body is holy.
2. Marriage is an appetizer.

3. God is a Lover.


1. The body is holy.
So many of us grow up being conditioned to think that are bodies are somehow dirty, our desires always sinful, and sex is a guilty pleasure (even among the married!) We seem to forget that it was God Himself Who gave us our bodies! In the beginning, He declared them to be "very good," and the first commandment He gave us was not a "Thou Shalt NOT" but a life-affirming, joyful, and ecstatic exclamation to "Be fruitful and multiply!"

So our bodies are holy, aka unique, set apart, different and wholly one with our souls. Not pieces of luggage our souls are wrapped in until death do us part. Our bodies are destined to share in the glory (or the horror) that is to come. The body is "a unique composite - a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever."

They/we are made for a communion, of which marriage is just a little glimmer! It's the sad consequence of sin that has caused a rift in the body/soul harmony. Everyone today, in a hundred different ways, is trying to figure out how to restore the balance.

Our bodies are temples, really. I think we sometimes consider them to more like parish youth centers, or maybe modestly carpeted church basements. But they are TEMPLES! Something beautiful, something theological is expressed in and through our bodies! What is it?

2. Marriage is an appetizer.
The truth is we are made for COMMUNION. And we must become a gift for others in order for this communion to happen. It happens in a spiritual way primarily, but marriage here below gives it the physical sign for us to see, and for many of us, to experience.

Man is meant to become a total gift for woman and woman is meant to receive this gift from man, and then... life comes from the union of the two. This giving and receiving is the great dance, the spousal meaning of our bodies proclaims it. It points to the fact that in the end there will be the final realization of God's plan for humanity and the universe. And that is.... (tadah!)

1. That we sit on clouds and strum harps?
2. We fan God on His Throne with palm branches saying "Yeah God!" ?

No... the final realization is the Wedding Feast of Heaven, when we at last come to see that God wants, not simply for us to follow the rules, be good, clean up our acts.... but above all God wants to MARRY US! Draw us into the Great Embrace of His Triune Love, a love that has ceaselessly been swirling about in the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! So marriage here below echoes that hope, gives us a glimmer of the love to come, and offers us even now that mysterious equation found in families: 1 + 1 = 1

One gives to another in love and makes another.... 1 + 1 = 1 and 1 = 3, a family. You've got three persons in one family. Sound familiar? The very mystery of Who God Is is stamped right in our bodies as male and female! We're so much more than biology.... we're biology that speaks a theology, a word about God!

3. God is a Lover.
This word that marriage speaks about God is that He is above all a Lover. Are we ready for this? Even though it is in fact love we all long for, did we ever think that God was the source of this Love? His is more than a Father's love, or a Grandfather's. His is the beginning and end of Love. Look at the saints and mystics..... their prayer became rapture, their hearts were wooed by the Divine. Pope John Paul II said "Prayer can progress as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the Divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially on the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise..." (Novo Millennio Ineunte 33)

WOOHOOOOO!!!! If these truths don't lead your heart to cry out for God and the deepest meaning of your own life, then I don't know what can. So let's trade in any false loves, any counterfeits we've bought into.... and we'll cry out these ancient prayers from the Psalms:

"As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?" (Psalm 42)

"My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84)

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