St Francis Q&A

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2nd Sunday - homily

When I say the word “holiness”, what do you think of? Many people when they hear the word “holiness” think of someone praying in Church, that it’s just spiritual stuff or things of the soul. But, holiness is much more than that; it involves body and soul. Holiness involves the physical, the concrete, where the rubber meets the road, the Word becomes flesh kind of stuff. God calls us to live great holiness through our bodies.

God himself shows us the way. He took on a human body and walked the earth for 33 years. People could see his body, could hear him, and touch him. He interacted with people and entered into friendship with so many people through his body, as we hear in today’s Gospel. He experienced great holiness through his body. Then, he offered his body on the Cross as a sacrifice to the Father for the salvation of the world. Salvation through a body. He experienced glory through his risen body in the Resurrection. Of course, Jesus continues to give us his body (blood, soul, and divinity) in the Eucharist.

God calls us to live holiness through our bodies. St. Paul reminds us of that in today’s second reading (1 Cor 6: 13-15, 17-20): “the body…is for the Lord…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…and not your own”. He reminds us to “avoid immorality” which is mainly referring to sexual immorality. Some people think that it’s not possible to live this kind of holiness, so they don’t even try. They don’t think it’s possible to avoid immorality – to avoid fornication, pornography, masturbation, and the like.

But, my brothers and sisters, it is possible. It is possible to live holiness through our bodies. We look at the saints – St Augustine is the classic example. He lived immorality for a while before he lived holiness through his body. The saints used techniques and disciplines that we can employ. Let’s look at a few of them. One, custody of the eyes. Now, Augustine didn’t have all of the images that we have every day thrown at us from the internet, media, advertisements, etc. We are bombarded every day! We need to be able to control what we look at because once certain images are in our minds and bodies, they are hard to get out. Custody of the eyes doesn’t mean that we keep our heads down every day with blinders on…it means to control what we look at.

Also, we can use our reason (our mind) to control our desires. This is possible. When we are tempted to pursue certain thoughts in fantasy, our minds can tell our desires, “get real. This is not going to help. It will bring more pain than pleasure. Get real!” If we call evil for what it is, then we won’t go after it. But, so often, evil looks attractive, it looks good. Our minds can call immorality for what it is and our bodies will follow.

Obviously, the grace of Christ is the foundation for living holiness through the body. The grace of the Eucharist and Confession are particularly helpful in this area. I know many people who have gone to these two sacraments so much more regularly and have experienced great freedom in living holiness through their bodies. It is a freeing thing to let go of certain thoughts or habits! God intends all of us to be free in this area.

Prayer is essential to living this kind of holiness. We need to pray constantly for strength and courage to live it out. Finally, reading the lives of the saints is very helpful so that can see examples of people who, sometimes, went from living immorality to living for immorTality, with the help of the cross and grace of Christ.

Unfortunately, there are many in our society who say that we have it all wrong. They say, “it’s my body and I can do whatever I want to it”. Some abortion rights groups say, “keep your laws off my body”. Next Thursday, we will have the March for Life where we witness and peacefully protest against this philosophy, this approach. We will basically be saying, ‘no, your bodies are not your own. They are temples of the Holy Spirit.’ Especially a woman who is bearing a child – she is a temple of life. She has another life within her… another person…with dignity and rights, the right to life. Our hope is that she chooses life…that she lives holiness through her body…that she glorifies God through her body. The hope is that we all do that.

As the Eucharist comes to us today – as the Body of Christ comes into our bodies – may it help us to glorify God through our bodies.


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