Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!
  

Ave Maria!
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost-6 July AD 2008
Body & Soul

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text]
[Latin Text]

    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 live."

    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 during life.

    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?

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