Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL  

 

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

 

MONTHLY DOSSIER

 

No. 40

 

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY

 

by Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Lucy Almiranez, OFS

Mike and Jenny Harrington, OFS

 

 

The Redemption of the Body – TOB 86

The fulfilment of God's promise to fallen humanity has happened: in Jesus the curse of sin has been broken. Death has been destroyed, Satan has been conquered, and man has at last been reconciled to God. Humanity has been redeemed.

Through the grace of redemption, poured out in an act of love in which Jesus died for us on the Cross, we have been empowered to a whole new way of living that goes back to God's original intention. He has called us (appealed to our hearts) to rediscover the nuptial meaning of the body, and fulfil the deepest purpose of our lives.

Part of the interior force that attracts us to all that is true, good and beautiful is Eros (erotic passion), an echo of God, in His supreme goodness, truth and beauty. It is good, it is part of the way we were created.

 

God has written into us the gift of communion, the mysterious reality of his image, and built in is the desire that leads to the primary expression of that communion, which is marriage. So eros is not to be crushed but transformed, by uniting eros with true moral values or ethics.

Ethics (Ethos) are tended to be thought of in negative terms such as rules, commandments or prohibitions, but John Paul II shows us that Jesus' words rather express positive values that protect and liberate.

It is necessary to rediscover continuously in what is erotic, the nuptial meaning of the body and the  true dignity of the gift. This is the role of the human spirit. If it does not assume this role, the attraction of the senses and the passion of the body may stop at mere lust devoid of ethical value. Then man, male and female does not experience that fullness of eros, which means the aspiration of the human spirit toward what is true, good and beautiful. (TOB 48.1)

Lust distorts and cheapens eros by reducing the person to an object, failing to recognize the true dignity of the human person revealed through the body.

John Paul II does not reduce the severity of Christ's words (Mt 5: 27-28), He says that in Christ, we now have the capacity to become the true masters of our own deep impulses. We have to rediscover the spiritual beauty of the human person revealed through the body in our masculinity and femininity. Christ has freed our human heart, that we now are able to sift out the beauty of the nuptial meaning of the body, from the ugliness of lust. This is possible through a life according to the Spirit.

Rom 8:23 - "... we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves,  waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free".

We are "always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2 Cor 4:10)

Gal 5:17, 20-21 - "The desires of self indulgence are always in opposition to the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are in opposition to self indulgence, they are opposites, one against the other; that is how you are prevented from doing the things that you want to. But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. When self indulgence is at work the results are obvious: sexual vice, impurity and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery, antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and all such things."

Rom 8:5-9 "....But you are not in the flesh, you are in the spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you."

St Paul vividly describes the interior battle we all experience between good and evil.

Self mastery / Purity

Ethos must become the "essential structure" of eros. We are called to full and mature natural relationships that are born from the attraction of masculinity and femininity. Such naturalness is itself the gradual fruit of the discernment of the impulses of one's own heart" (TOB 48.2). The discernment is related to spontaneity... A noble pleasure is one thing, sexual desire another; when sexual desire is connected with a noble pleasure, it differs from desire pure and simple" (TOB 48.4).

Self mastery is an essential ingredient of purity of heart, enabling us to take possession of our desires and not be possessed by them, precisely so that we can give ourselves away in love.

In his sermon, Jesus does not invite man to return to the state of original innocence, because this has been irretrievably lost, but he calls him to find -- on the foundation of the perennial and ... indestructible meanings of what is "human" - the living forms of the "new man." In this way a connection is formed, even a continuity, between the "beginning" and the perspective of redemption. In the ethos of the redemption of the body, the original ethos of creation was to be taken up anew. (TOB 49.4)

Clarifying the meaning of purity of heart,.... Christ speaks about every moral evil, every sin..

It follows that the concept of "purity" and of "impurity" in the moral sense is a rather general concept, not a specific one: thus every moral good is a manifestation of purity and every moral evil a manifestation of impurity. (TOB 50.4).

The "virtue of purity means that we come to an ever greater awareness of the gratuitous beauty of the human body, of masculinity and femininity".( MI p.29)

"Purity is the glory of the human body before God. It is the glory of God in the human body, through which masculinity and femininity are manifested." (TOB 57.3)

"Someone, I was told, at the sight of a very beautiful body, felt impelled to glorify the Creator. The sight of it increased his love for God to the point of tears. Anyone who entertains such feelings in such circumstances is already risen.... before the general resurrection" (John Climacus, the Ladder of Divine Assent, 15th step, 58, p.168)

Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins. In the Sermon on the Mount, he interprets God's plan strictly: 'You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. The tradition of the Church has understood the sixth commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality. (CCC 2336)

True freedom

When Paul speaks about the necessity of putting to death deeds of the body with the Spirit's help, he expresses precisely what Christ spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount when he appealed to the human heart and exhorted it to mastery over desires, including those that express themselves in a man's "look" directed toward a woman with the purpose of satisfying the concupiscence of the flesh. Such mastery, or as Paul writes, "putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit," is an indispensable condition of "life according to the Spirit," that is of the "life" that is the antithesis of the "death" about which he speaks in the same context. Life "according to the flesh" bears fruit, in fact, in "death", that is, it brings with it the "death" according to the Spirit. "The term 'death,' therefore does not signify only bodily death, but also the sin that theology was to call mortal." (TOB 52.4)

To complete the picture of the antithesis between the "body" and the "fruit of the Spirit" one must observe that in all that is manifestation of life and behaviour according to the Spirit, Paul sees at the same time the manifestation of that freedom for which Christ "has set us free" (Gal 5:1), "For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as a pretext for living according to the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law finds its fullness in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself'" (Gal 5:13-14)

The "redemption of the body" expresses itself not only in the final resurrection as victory over death, It is present also in the words Christ addresses to men and women of history when he invites us to overcome lust even in the inner movements of the human heart (TOB 86.6)

The redemption of the body is the foundation of everything John Paul II teaches in his Theology of the Body. It refers not only to the hope of resurrection at the end of time, but is a power at work in us now able to do far more than we think or imagine. It is able to transform our experience of the body and sexuality.

In and through Jesus Christ we come to a deep awareness that our bodies and thus our very selves are redeemed. Our experience of knowing and loving Christ helps us enter into the original experiences and thus come to a deeper understanding of who we are and what our lives can be.

The words of Christ, who in the Sermon of the Mount appeals to the "heart," lead the listener to such an inner call. If he allows them to work in him he can at the same time hear in his innermost being the echo, as it were, of that "beginning," ... The words of Christ testify the original power (and thus also the grace) of the mystery of creation becomes for each one of them the power of the mystery of redemption. (TOB 46.5)

This grace of redemption is found in the Sacramental life in the Church, where we are infused with holiness body and soul. The sacraments make Christ's death and resurrection a living reality in our own lives.

John Paul II proclaims that as much as lust enslaves us by disordering our passions, so much does this "life according to the Spirit" free us to be a gift to others. . As much as lust blinds us to the truth of God's plan for the body, so much does "life according to the Spirit" open our eyes to the body's spousal meaning . (TOB 101:5)

Questions for reflection:

1. How would you reconcile Eros and Ethos in respect of our sexuality and God’s plan for you?

2. Jesus told us that He came to set us free. Explain how St Paul in the letter to the Galatians (5:1) understands this.

3. For eros not to be crushed but transformed, how can we unite eros with true moral values or ethics.

4. John Paul II says "We have to rediscover the spiritual beauty of the human person revealed through the body in our masculinity and femininity": How is this possible through a life according to the Spirit?

5. St Paul vividly describes to the Romans and Galatians, the interior battle we all experience between good and evil. In what ways could you gain self mastery?

6. Why is self mastery an essential ingredient of purity of heart?

7. Discuss how when 'Paul speaks about the necessity of putting to death deeds of the body with the Spirit's help, he expresses precisely what Christ spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount when he appealed to the human heart and exhorted it to mastery over desires, including those that express themselves in a man's "look" directed toward a woman with the purpose of satisfying the concupiscence of the flesh.'

8. Discuss how the grace of redemption is found in the Sacramental life in the Church.

References : 'Man and Woman He Created them' - John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church.