Splendid Sundays: Serving with the Body

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Open USCCB Lectionary 65 to read along.

Sing with me!  “Here I am Lord, is it I Lord?  I have heard you, calling in the night.  I will go Lord, if you leeeead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.”  Did you grab your guitar and sway along with me?  That’s a song I haven’t heard in years as my parish has done away with hip hymns from the 70s/80s in favor of lovely traditional music, but of course it popped in my head reading today’s first reading from 1 Samuel 3.

You know how when you’re discerning God’s will for you, especially between two paths, it can be hard to tell which one He is telling you to take?  I think it’s pretty funny how Samuel had God speaking to him verbally, and still couldn’t discern that it was the Lord!  I wonder how long it would take me to figure out that God was verbally calling out to me?  And would I think to address myself as his servant?

Admittedly, to be a servant sounds so restrictive and undesirable.  Psalm 40 says, “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”  Well, that sounds okay, sure, I can do Your Will (especially if it is delightful!), as long as I get to do my will too.  But (selfishly, and sinfully) this servant gig worries me about where my will fits into the picture.

Allow me a tangent for the moment.  Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day in the United States and it reminds us of how far we have come in looking beyond the body and recognizing souls as having equal importance.  There is more work to be done in this area, for sure, but Thank God we have made progress and will continue to make progress!  It is ghastly incorrect to assign values to humans based upon their bodies, and this desperately needs to be addressed.

However, it seems the course correction has gone, perhaps, too far.  Instead of simply recognizing that all bodies have the same value, it seems the body, all bodies, have been assigned a worthless value.  Now, the importance is placed solely upon intelligence, and new assignments are being made to humans based upon this.  For instance, a young lady may get angry when she feels judged on her immoral behavior and will defend herself with something along the lines of, “You don’t know me on the inside!  I’m a good person and that’s all that matters.”  If her body is worthless, then what she does with it is insignificant as well.  These days we are also told that  abortion is not murder as the body you see is not yet human due to a lack of proper intellectual capacity.  The body you see is merely a clump of cells.  Furthermore, some in the medical community (thankfully not all!) continue to measure a person’s worth after birth by assessing an individual’s “quality of life” and thus will decide bodily healthcare based on his or her intellectual capacity (think Terri Schivo, or the recent story of 3 year old Amelia who is being denied a transplant because of her mental retardation).  It makes one wonder, is the body really worthless?

Let’s ask, how important are our bodies are to God, our Creator?  Humans are unique creatures of God in that, like angels,  we have immortal souls, but He gave us bodies as well.  Furthermore, on the last day, every soul in Heaven will be reunited with its Earthly body for the new Heavens and new Earth!  God doesn’t just want our souls for Eternity, He’s coming back for our bodies too!!

In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul tells us our bodies are for the Lord and that we are to glorify Him with our bodies!  I also love how St. Paul tells us that the Lord is for our bodies and that our bodies are members of Christ (not just our souls!).  The Sacrament of the Eucharist is precisely the place where God demonstrates the membership of our bodies with Him.  Jesus’s body is made present to our bodies, which fills our souls with His Grace.  While our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit upon baptism, they are also temples of the Holy Spirit upon receiving Jesus’s body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.  Both the Eucharist and St. Paul remind us that our bodies are not for immorality, but for the Lord!

Now let’s get back to servitude.  Because our bodies are God given and essential for membership in the human race, we are to “Glorify God in our body” (1 Cor 6:20).   The more we give up control of our bodies to the Lord, the more we glorify Him, and the more He can glorify Himself through us.  Being a servant does not mean your will has no place, it just means that God’s will comes before your own.  In what areas of  your life might you be struggling with properly ordering His will and your will?  Keeping with the body theme and St. Paul’s discussion on immorality, I know many people struggle with control in fertility, whether they are fertile (and don’t want any more kids) or are infertile (and do want biological children).  Additionally, some people struggle with the genders God assigned them as women are seeking ordination, and society is normalizing homosexual unions.

As Catholics, we have the Pope to uphold the dignity of the human body and soul, just as Jesus taught, with both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.  These teachings are difficult to embrace when they go against our wills.  However, we need to remember that the Pope, too, is merely a servant of the Lord, our Creator.  While it is far more desirable to give into our wills on difficult subjects, let us instead embrace our roles as servants for He has better plans for us than we have for ourselves; “God blessed me with fertility and I will embrace it”, “God has other plans for my family due to infertility”, “God made me a woman, and my role is NOT inferior”, “I have a same sex attraction but I know this love can not be expressed within a marriage”, “God did not make a mistake in any way when He made my soul or my body, so I can live within His laws and serve Him with everything He gave me.”

Obeying God’s laws for our bodies and using our bodies with a heart of service is not simply a nice thing to do.  While our salvation is determined by God’s Grace in our souls, it is not only our souls that go to Heaven, our bodies do too.  And so it is fitting that Holy Mother Church teaches us that God’s saving Grace comes to us via our faith (soul) and our works (body).

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