Happy Easter! Since the passion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus is aimed at re-creating a new humanity in God’s image and likeness, it actually fits to use this column on Easter Sunday to recap for you our latest session of Theology of the Body (TOB), which also aims to renew Man and Woman in God’s image. On Palm Sunday we had our third session of TOB for young adults. Because I was not able to be present to lead discussion, I asked Mr. Andrew Reinhart, Pastoral Associate at the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, and founder of Theology of the Body Advocates in our Diocese to be present in my stead. Here are some questions and answers that encapsulate the presentation for the evening, which was entitled, “Man and Woman He Created Them (Our Origin)”:
Why does John Paul II begin with this quote from St. Matthew’s Gospel – “For your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”? (Matthew 19:8)
– The starting point of TOB must be an understanding that God had an original plan for our creation as male and female from which we have fallen. Christ comes into the world precisely to restore the order of love in the human heart, which has been broken and wounded, which needs healing.
What do you understand the phrase “Christ fully reveals man to himself” to mean?
– Since John Paul II wants to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?”, the only adequate starting point is Christ. Christ “fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (from a Vatican II document). Christ points us to “the beginning” – to God’s original plan before sin – as the norm for human existence. Moreover, by taking on our human nature, and never sinning, Christ became the model for us of what it means to be human.
In what primary way did Adam realize that he was “different” from the animals?
– The primary difference between man and the animals is freedom or self-determination. Freedom is possible because of man’s spiritual soul, but it is lived and experienced in and through our bodies and what we choose to do with them.
One of the key teachings of Vatican II states that “man cannot fully find himself except through the sincere gift of self.” What do you understand the Church to mean by this statement?
– To make a “sincere gift of self” means to love as Christ loves. We give ourselves through our bodies, just as Christ demonstrates: “This is my body given for you.” Marital union is a specific example of this self-giving, but it is lived in all the ways we serve one another.
Becoming “one flesh” refers to much more than the joining of two bodies. Why?
– Because the human body is not just biological – it is personal and theological. The joining of two human bodies is the joining of two persons and reveals something of the inner mystery of self-giving in God.
Traditional theology has stated that we image God as individuals through our rational soul. Although this is true, John Paul II has gone deeper to explain that we also image God through the communion of persons.
Why does John Paul II consider nakedness without shame as the “key” to understanding God’s original plan for man and woman?
– Because nakedness without shame reveals God’s original plan of love “stamped” in our bodies as male and female, untainted by lust. Love untainted by lust is God’s original plan for man and woman.
Why were Adam and Eve not ashamed in their nakedness prior to the Fall?
– Shame is the result of lust. Before sin, sexual desire was untainted by lust. They had no need to cover their bodies because there was no danger that the other would look at the body as a means of selfish gratification.
How did Adam and Eve experience sexual desire prior to the Fall?
– As nothing but the desire to be a “sincere gift” to each other in the image of God. Sexual desire was not experienced as a compulsion to satisfy or “relieve”. This is the specific result of original sin.
What does “spousal” mean? What other words could be used to describe the phrase, “spousal meaning of the body”?
– Spousal love is the love of “total self-donation”. We could also speak of the marital, nuptial, or conjugal meaning of the body.
So there is a summary of the latest TOB session. Amazing, refreshing teaching! Medicine for the world!
On another note, I want to inform you that Mari Ivan has agreed to head up a “Volunteer Life Committee”. The committee will brainstorm about all aspects of the awesome volunteering that happens in our parish. The primary mission of the committee is to ask what type of structure we might create to provide support and communication for all of our volunteerism. This mission starts with an attempt to graph out all of the volunteer activity now happening. So the committee will be using a questionnaire to obtain from volunteer leaders a description of the work done now. The committee will interact with the pastoral council for input at key junctures. (The parish council helped me hone up the questionnaire for this purpose.) This is a large project. Perhaps by next January we will have a first suggestion for a structure? We’ll see what time it takes. The idea for such a committee and structure comes from those occasions since my arrival when I have realized that we sometimes do not know who is helping with some aspect of parish life. Or I realize how hard it is to get communication to a specific set of people caring for some facet of our parish. That has led me to wonder if there are volunteers in the parish who sometimes who similarly feel a lack of communication and support. So let’s study the issue.
Have a great Easter season!
In cordibus Iesu et Marie,