[NOTE: This commentary originally appeared Oct. 31 on the National Catholic Register website as: “Healing the Reformation’s Wounds With the Theology of the Body.” To read the NC Register‘s series of articles on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, click here.]
Today marks the 500th anniversary of the day that, as the story goes, a young Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Castle. To say the series of events that that one action set in motion have had a monumental impact on Western civilization would be a gross understatement.
We have every reason to hope — not in the sense of wishful thinking, but with the certainty of “the hope that does not disappoint” — that Christ’s prayer that all his followers “will be one” will someday be answered.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then the second greatest is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mt 22:34-40). One of the insights of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is that this call to love is revealed in our bodies. “This is the body,” says John Paul II, “a witness … to love” (TOB 14:4). It’s a witness to the love God has for us, the love we are to have for God, and the love we are to have for others. How so? It’s the body that reveals the call to become “one flesh.” The holy communion of man and woman is a “great mystery” that reveals how God loves us in the holy communion of the Eucharist (see Eph 5:31-32). God wants to marry us, become “one” with us in the flesh. “This is my body given for you…” says Jesus to his Bride in the Mass. In receiving Christ’s body in so intimate a way, we have all we need when Mass is ended to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another.” We have God’s body in our body, the source of all love. Astounding.
Today marks three years since my beloved professor, friend, and mentor Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete went to his eternal reward (and to be reunited with his personal friend, Saint John Paul II). If you’ve watched my new short film you know how important my nearly 20 year friendship with him was. There is just no way to put in words what this man meant to me.
[Mike Mangione is a nationally touring musician and popular podcast host. To subscribe to his podcast, Time & the Mystery, on iTunes (and leave a review) click here. To learn more about his music, click here.]
Growing up in the 90s there was no bigger show for me than Saturday Night Live, and no bigger cast member than Chris Farley. When I was a student at Marquette University, I used to imagine fellow alum, Farley, running late for class through the academic yard … as seen in the movie Tommy Boy. Anytime I share my story of touring and living in a van for two years it is almost guaranteed someone wittingly responds, “Was it down by a river?” – a quote from Chris Farley’s iconic motivational speaker character, Matt Foley. I have always felt a strong connection to Chris especially after I heard that he was a practicing Catholic, like myself. I have always related to the very honest and human sweet/troubled reality that Chris lived. Not for any glorified reasons but rather for its honest, hopeful and redemptive qualities. Chris was not perfect and neither am I. I have always felt like I could relate to him, though never knowing him, somewhat on that level. So when I found out that his SNL character Matt Foley was named after his college rugby buddy-turned Catholic priest, Army chaplain and Afghanistan veteran, Father Matt Foley – and Fr. Matt lived an hour and a half away from me – I thought, I absolutely have to meet this man and talk about who he is, his friend Chris, their relationship, and their faith. Enjoy Time & The Mystery: Conversations with Father Matt Foley.
This week’s Gospel presents Jesus’ well-known response to those who asked him about paying taxes to Caesar. Since the Roman coin bore Caesar’s image and inscription, Jesus said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The deeper question, of course, is: What belongs to God? We do. For we bear his image and inscription. Where? How? Traditionally theologians have said we image God as individuals, through our rational soul. That’s true. But St. John Paul II says that “man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning” (TOB 9:3). God himself is an eternal Communion of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The call to a similar communion is inscribed by God right in our bodies as male and female. The body itself is a witness to self-giving love. God took on a body precisely to make a gift of his body for us. Let us “repay” God by making a gift of our bodies for him.