Eighth Sunday after Pentecost-6 July AD 2008
Body & Soul
I am going to make the assumption this
morning, that everyone who hears this Gospel about the "Unjust
Steward" understands that our Lord is not advocating imitation of his
thievery! He is, however, advocating our imitation of his prudence-the idea of
taking what is at hand and using it in such a way as to guarantee our eternal
salvation. We are adopted sons and daughters-privileged to call God
"Abba," our Father. We have the opportunity to know Him intimately as
He reveals Himself through the Catholic Church. We have the ability to do the
good things He has commanded for those around us. We have the opportunity to
embrace and love Him in our prayers; to be quite literally with Him in the Most
Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, through Holy Mass.
The prudence that our Lord commends today is the prudence of those who make use
of this relationship with, taking advantage of each and every one of these
opportunities, as often as possible-each and every day of our lives.
But this morning I want to leave you with a few thought about what we hear from
Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Romans:
"If you live according to the flesh you will die;
but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will
At first glance it might seem that Saint Paul is falling into the error of the
Manicheans—opposing the body to the soul-making the one bad and the other good.
But upon closer examination we see that Paul is doing nothing more than calling
for the natural order of things-telling us that our souls must control the
passions of our bodies-and, in turn, that the soul itself must be subject to the
will of God.
It is worthwhile to understand the relationship of body and soul, in order to
put St. Paul's teaching into practice. And, in thinking about this relationship—lest we get too
clinical—we should always keep in mind that man is
his body and soul. He is not a body with a soul added on as an afterthought. We
don't have a soul in the sense of "owning" one, like one has a boat or
owns a car-rather, our soul is an integral part of our being. "My soul is
me," so to speak.
First of all, the human body was created by God to glorify Him in His material
creation. As God's creation, it is intrinsically good. Any of the evils which we
associate with the body are misuses of it. This becomes painfully obvious when
we examine or experience the results of over-indulgence. The body revolts when
it is put to uses for which it is not intended.
The human body had a certain "divine dignity" in that it is intended
to be a temple of the Holy Ghost-of God dwelling within us through sanctifying
grace. It is further sanctified, in a sense, by the fact that God Himself chose
to take our human form—to take flesh from the flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary—and adopted a body like ours.
The body has such a dignity also, from the fact that it is intended to exist one
day in the glory of happiness with God in heaven. It is only the effects of
original sin which turn us from our heavenly orientation toward the base misuse
of our physical being.
We should be more than a little skeptical about the notion that the body just
evolved, through no power other than random chance. Clearly, it is a work of
complex design, the fruit of great guiding intelligence-not mere happenstance.
Left to themselves things become disordered, [entropy increases, as we say in
thermodynamics] not more ordered. Purposeful intervention is required to produce
a more organized state.
In addition to his physical body, man possesses a spiritual soul. This soul is
directly created by God at the time that a new physical body is created. This is
one of the reasons that the Church is so concerned with the morality of the
marital relationship. In conceiving a child, a couple is doing something we
might, in a sense, call "sacramental"—somewhat as the priest uttering
a few words over the bread and wine calls the Body and Blood of Christ down from
heaven-the conception of a child calls God down to bring a new soul into
existence. And, just like the sacraments this can be done in great holiness-but
can also be the occasion of terrible sacrilege.
Man's soul is spiritual. It cannot be seen, or weighed, or tasted, or
measured.... But it is, none the less, real. It is the seat of man's spiritual
faculties; his intellect and will. It is through the soul that we are able to
assimilate and process the data transmitted by our senses in order to know the
world around us at present, to remember the past, to speculate about the future,
and even to know God. It is through the soul that we are able to will what is
good, and to detest what is evil, to feel an attachment for friends and family,
to feel responsibility for our community and nation, and ultimately to love God.
Man's soul is immortal. Remember that the body disintegrates because it is made
up of many material pieces. The soul has no parts, it is not divisible; it is,
as the philosophers say, "simple." The soul will survive the body, and
we know from God's revelation that it will be rewarded or punished for its deeds
Which brings us to the last point, that the soul is free. Man can make choices.
He can analyze situations with his intellect, and then direct his will to
properly order his actions. But he may also use his free will to improperly
order his actions. Even knowing the true good, he may elect to chose the bad.
But, if he does, he should be aware that he in his immortal soul and resurrected
body will pay the price.
We are creatures of body and soul. We are responsible to take reasonable care of
both. To eat right and to take exercise in moderation, to observe reasonable
medical precautions. To avoid the occasion of sin, to make a regular sacramental
Confession, to pray and to frequent the Mass and Sacraments.
The human body is mortal; the soul is immortal. One day we will die and be
judged, and will be rewarded or punished accordingly. And one day later still,
at the General Judgment, we will be reunited with our physical body. Our soul
and that body will either reign in the glory of God Himself, or give everlasting
testimony in hell that we violated God's justice. Not really much of a choice to
make is it?