Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
January 18th, 2015
Year B

A boy and his father were walking in the woods when the boy spotted a spider. Instinctively, he swatted at it and was about to kill it. In that moment, his father stopped him. “Look,” his dad said. The boy stopped, bent down and watched the spider. He was soon captivated as the little spider continued to spin its web between the branches of a small tree. His dad explained that spiders are not to be feared, they are good for the environment, protecting us and the plants we depend on for food by eating disease-carrying insects. The boy now saw the spider with an entirely new outlook. He no longer saw an ugly insect but was awestruck by the spider’s unseen work in creation. His fear was transformed into respect. He thus was able to see how the life of spider matters.

In a similar fashion, St. Paul teaches us something about the human body in the second reading of the Mass today. Corinth was a rich, cosmopolitan and, important Greek city when Paul wrote this letter. According to the worldview of the Greeks, there was a huge separation between the body and the soul. The body was considered unimportant: it was just a thing. The important thing was the soul, they taught, the human mind and spirit: that’s the only thing that really mattered. Ancient Greek philosophers expressed this with a vivid image. They considered the body to be a prison containing and limiting the soul; the soul was trapped in the body like a ghost inside of a machine. As a result of this negative view of the body, the Greeks tended to be extremely lax when it came to sexual morality. Since the body doesn't really matter, they reasoned, then what we do with our body doesn't really matter - we can just do whatever we please.

This is not unlike the perception of the body in today’s culture. We have heard phrases like: “my body, my choice”; “you can’t tell me what to do or who to love”. St. Paul, however, in his address to the Corinthians and to us today, turns that viewpoint around 180 degrees. He is speaking directly about sexual morality. The word used in the second reading, immorality, really ought to be translated as “fornication” and the phrase “avoid immorality” ought to be translated as “flee fornication.” He is telling us that what we do to our bodies makes a huge difference and matters when it comes to the practice of our faith. He is warning us against sins of a sexual nature because they hurt the soul. Christianity is not a religion like that of the pagans – it is not solely lived in the mind, it is not a spiritual sensationalism. No, Christianity is a bodily religion. Think about it – the sacraments use material things like water, oil, bread, wine as well as words and gestures, all of which touch the senses and engage the body so as to lift up the soul. Many of the most prominent sins – grave sins – all deal with the fact that many people think that the body is of no consequence and that it lacks spiritual meaning. Yet, St. Paul tells us that we are “members of Christ… joined to the Lord… of one spirit with Him… the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” The one perfect example is that of the Sacrament of Marriage. In matrimony, when a husband and wife come together in marital union, there is made manifest the union of God. Marital union reveals how man and woman go together and how in this display of intimacy, God is made known to them – in the unity of their love, a mirror image of the intimate, loving unity of the Trinity.

Our society is like the boy in this story – we have lost the understanding of the meaning of our bodies and think of them merely as functionaries for pleasure. We have forgotten that we have been created in God’s image and likeness. We have forgotten that we were created for a purpose. We have forgotten that we are to give glory God in all that we do. The father in this story taught his boy that the spider has meaning and by learning, he was able to have a greater respect for the spider. This is precisely what is needed in our world today – a teaching on the meaning of our bodies so that we can truly glorify God with the whole of our being – body, mind, heart and soul. Like St. Paul and Jesus in His own time, we must not be afraid to adhere to the true teaching on the meaning of the body, must not be afraid to be numbered among the unpopular or politically incorrect. For it is in discovering the meaning of the human person where we find truth of who are and who we are meant to be.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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