Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Only God can create ex nihilo (from nothing). All the devil can do is pervert what God has already created as good, and it is this perversion that is evil. In this light, we can fruitfully consider the word that Paul offers us in today’s first reading. “Do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness.” God creates us, body, soul, and spirit, and he creates us good. Our bodies are part of God’s good creation: they are very good. Ignatius of Loyola says, in his Principle and Foundation, that they are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, together with our soul and our spirit. But, as Paul indicates, we can take things that are good and offer them up to wickedness. We need to get a sense of what this means if we are to actually live our Christianity “in the flesh” (an absolute requirement of our “incarnational” faith) and not just “in our head.”
Saint Augustine’s recognition that time is an expression of our physicality (some call it “the fourth dimension”) can help us better understand our place in the world as Christians. Like our bodies, time, also, is given for us to do God’s will. This means that we ought to use time (which is one of God’s creatures) to praise, reverence, and serve the God who is love by Loving others. And how do we love others? James says that we love not by thinking nice thoughts, but by concretely being “doers of the word,” through our fleshy, bodily existence (cf. James 1:19-3:18). When we do this, the love that God offers us is made manifest in space and time through our grace-filled action in the world. When we refuse to do this, when we choose to use the time God gives us for purposes other than the love for which we are created, then, through our bodies, we bring into existence things that ought never have been. For example, if I held a grudge against someone and worked actively to spread gossip about that person to prevent her from getting a promotion, I have used my time and my body (here, my tongue, and perhaps letters, etc.) to bring something into reality that ought never have been. I may repent and ask for forgiveness later, and I might try to make amends for what I have done, but I can never undo it. If she loses her job and her reputation and her children are affected as a result, that is a manifestation of the evil that I have “let out of the bag” when I “present the parts of [my] body as weapons to sin for wickedness.”
The Gospel offers a different way. By clinging to God’s grace, we can freely choose to do the good that is offered to us by God. In obedience to the Master, we can do his will, even when he is “delayed in coming.” In fact, it is precisely by doing the will of God in this way that we show through our bodies the obedience of love that obeys out of freedom (and not for the sight of others). This is Christ’s life, the eternal life that he offers us to live in our mortal bodies.