This Sunday’s readings are all about the resurrection of the body. The Lord proclaims through Ezekiel: “I will open your graves and have you rise from them” (Ez 37:12). The psalm response assures us: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” This “fullness of redemption,” we must remember, is not only the redemption of our souls, but always includes “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). Do not confuse St. Paul’s sharp words about “the flesh” with a disparagement of the body. “Flesh” here means the whole human being cut off from God’s Spirit. But if we open our whole body-soul personality to God’s Spirit, Paul assures us that “the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also” (Rom 8:11). We see this powerfully foreshadowed in the resurrection of Lazarus. When Jesus told them to remove the stone, Martha retorted, “Lord, by now there will be a stench.” Jesus: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” Believe what? That Christ himself is “the resurrection and the life.” That Christ’s love can transform the stench of our rotting flesh into fragrance of his glory. When we believe in his love, we happily “expose our stench.” When we don’t, we hide it behind stones. Lord, give us the courage to remove the stones in our lives that keep us from seeing your glory!
In this Sunday’s Gospel we read that Jesus “spat on the ground and made clay with his saliva, and smeared the clay on [the blind man’s] eyes….” Spat. Ground. Clay. Saliva. Smeared. It’s all so visceral. So earthy. And let’s be honest: it can seem, well, kinda gross. Body fluids often make us very uneasy. Ewe! Yuck! Ick! Nasty! Jesus was spat upon as an insult. But Jesus’ spit smeared on the blind man was a way of expressing his profound love for this man. I’m not making this up, as you know. It’s just, well, we don’t really like to think about such details. But every detail of the Gospel is there for a reason and we would do well to think about it. Here’s something worth pondering: lovers don’t recoil when they exchange body fluids. They actually desire to do so. Spousal love removes the “ick factor.” The body (and its fluids) is meant to express the language of spousal love. Jesus’ body (and its fluids, especially his blood) is the ultimate expression of this. If we recoil at the thought of such intimacy with Jesus, we will not know the depths of his love. And we’ll remain blind. Jesus, smear your saliva-clay on our eyes and heal us of our blindness!
Nothing wrong with enjoying some green beer, but there’s a lot more to Saint Patrick’s Day than the secular culture would have you realize. If you want a little background on one of the world’s most famous saints, click here.
I think the famous prayer known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate provides a beautiful window into his spirituality. Here’s a section of it (for the full prayer click here):
In this Sunday’s first reading the Israelites grumble against Moses for leading them into the desert to die of thirst. In the second reading Paul tells us that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” And in the Gospel story of the woman at the well the two readings come together: Jesus uses the woman’s physical thirst to point her to her deeper spiritual thirst for love. “Go call your husband,” says Jesus, gently pointing out that the woman had taken her deep thirst for love to various sexual relationships. She had, in fact, been with six men, six being the imperfect biblical number. Jesus, in a supreme act of tenderness and mercy, comes to her as her “seventh lover” – the perfect biblical number. In his dialogue with her, it’s as if he were saying: “I know you are thirsty for love, I know. But, my beloved, you’ve been ‘looking for love in all the wrong places … looking for love in too many faces.’ I’m the love you’ve been looking for! If you only knew the gift of God … if you only knew the love that I wanted to give you…. You would ask, and I would give it to you … and you would never thirst again. In fact, this love will well up in you to eternal life” (see Jn 4:10-14). This is the hope Paul writes about: the hope that “does not disappoint.”
In place of a written blog post today, here’s a video my team shot last week that can help explain to friends and family the difference between art and pornography.
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