11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 14, 2015
2 Cor 5: 6-10
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle
“While we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5: 6).
In the 1st verse this 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul refers to the “tent” of “our earthly dwelling,” speaking thus of our life’s pilgrimage, its temporary nature. We’re here, we dwell here—but in a tent, something temporary and transitory. Paul goes on to contrast that with the permanent “building from God, not made with hands” (ibid.), i.e., the glorified body, like Jesus’, that we anticipate as a gift from God.
In the meantime, “we are at home in body,” i.e., this fragile construction of mortal flesh and blood—what Paul in the previous chapter of this same letter calls “an earthen vessel” (2 Cor 4:7). We are “at home” because this is the life we know, the state in which we dwell.
But of course we’re not entirely at home: “we are away from the Lord.” We’re not in the place or state—or company—where we want to be, which is with Jesus, who once was with us in this same mortal flesh but is no longer so. Consequently, “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord” (5:8). With the Lord in our Father’s house—in a body made new and whole like Jesus’ – is where we long to be, where we long to dwell.
“Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away” (5:9). The “him” whom we aspire to please is Jesus, the Lord, who has commanded us to follow him as disciples, “walking by faith” (5:7). We follow him in the sense of obeying his teachings. We follow him in the sense of going where he has gone ahead of us, “the firstborn of the dead” (Col 1:18) who has risen to immortal life. Paul’s use of “home”—“whether we are at home or away”—has shifted here. 3 verses earlier, we were “at home in the body,” but now “at home” means “with Christ,” in contrast to “away” from being “home with the Lord.”
This little contrast seems to be a variation on “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We aspire to please the Lord by doing the Father’s will on earth while we are away from the Lord in this earthly body, as we also aspire to unite our wills entirely and perfectly with the Father’s in heaven, when “we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2) and become like the Lord Jesus.
But not our wills only are involved, as if they could be disembodied. Rather, our wills operate thru our bodies, as Paul reminds us in the last verse of the reading: we will be judged and either rewarded or punished according to what we “did in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10). We are “at home” sufficiently in our mortal bodies now to own our actions, words, and omissions: to please or displease the Lord Jesus Christ, to walk with him by faith or to walk away from him like the rich young man who went away sad or, worse, like Judas.
|The Son of God, made man, went about doing good, including healing sick bodies (as well as sick hearts and souls). Sculpture over a side entrance to National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington.|
This relationship between our bodies, ourselves, and the Lord raises a point related to recent news. Specifically, Fr. Robert Barron takes it up in his column last week as published in the on-line edition of Boston’s Pilot. He detects the ancient heresy of Gnosticism flourishing in our time. That heresy poo-pooed the value of our bodies, thought all matter was basically corrupt and evil, and advocated the liberation of our souls—our true selves—thru perfect knowledge (gnosis in Greek). Rather than our souls—our minds and wills and hearts—operating thru our bodies, as Paul holds, and indeed the entire orthodox Christian tradition, Gnosticism maintains that our souls must escape from our bodies in order to attain perfection. Material creation is bad, the Incarnation and Resurrection mere illusions, the sacraments pointless.
Fr. Barron detects this ancient heresy in the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner “event,” and of course in the entire transgender thing (which seems to be next pop fad now that the cultural elite have apparently won the homosexual wars—that’s me speaking, not Fr. Barron). The transgender premise is that one’s true self is trapped in an alien body, a body that has no inherent link to one’s personal identity, the so-called “authentic self,” and therefore that body must be “manipulated” to be brought into line with one’s “authentic self.”
All of that—the entire Gnostic idea—is alien to biblical revelation; it’s alien to our belief that whatever God created is good; that the 2d Person assumed a real human body thru which he effected our redemption; that in his human body he rose and lives gloriously transformed; that he calls us to follow him toward that same transformation of our bodies, which are the intrinsic and essential expressions of our inner selves; that our creation in the image of God will be perfected not in our jettisoning our bodies, like a space capsule ditching its booster rocket, but in our joining our Lord Jesus Christ in the new creation; that we follow Jesus now in our bodily tho imperfect selves, acting, thinking, speaking, desiring—striving “to please him” in this life so that on Judgment Day he will recognize us as his own, as like him, as worthy of coming into his home forever.
May this Eucharist, which transforms bodily food into spiritual, work toward the transformation of our whole selves into living images of our Lord Jesus so that we may please him in this mortal life and live with him immortally.