COR THOUGHTS 239: The Time of Fulfillment

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The readings this weekend speak of the need to change our lives in light of the fact that “the time is running out” (second reading) and “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Gospel). “This is the time of fulfillment,” announces Jesus. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In short, the good news that we are to believe in is that God created us to share in the eternal bliss of his love, a bliss that Scripture calls the “Marriage of the Lamb.” The tragedy of sin is that we doubted this gift and took fulfillment into our own hands, making idols of the good things God created to lead us to him – like marriage. When St. Paul says “those having wives [should] act as not having them” (second reading), he’s inviting us to examine where we’re directing our desires. If it’s to anything less than the Infinite, we need to repent. To repent means to stop pursuing ultimate fulfillment in created things and entrust the satisfaction of all the desires of our hearts to the one who put them there in order to lead us to him. If we are ever to find the happiness for which we long, like the fishermen in this weekend’s Gospel, we must “abandon our nets” – all our attempts to “catch” happiness for ourselves – and follow Christ into “the time of fulfillment.”

COR THOUGHTS 238: Directing Eros toward True Fulfillment

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This Sunday’s Gospel reveals the first words that John the Evangelist puts in the mouth of Christ. Jesus probes our hearts with a critically important question: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). It’s a question about that “ache” we all feel inside for something and where we’re taking that ache. The Greeks called that deep longing eros. It’s a desire for infinite love, infinite union, infinite bliss. Sadly, we often take that yearning to “false infinities.” When we do, we “miss the mark” (that’s what “sin” means). In this week’s second reading, Paul is trying to help us redirect eros so that we hit the mark: “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord” (1 Cor 6:13). Our bodies and our erotic desires are meant to lead us to the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church. Both the sacrament of marriage and Christian celibacy – each in its own way – witness to this ultimate union with God. As Papal Preacher Father Cantalamessa put it, “the primary object of our eros, of our search, desire, attraction, passion must be Christ.” Only as we learn how to direct eros toward Infinite Love do we find “what we’re looking for.” This, also, is how we “glorify God in our bodies” (second reading).

COR THOUGHTS 237: Rise up in Splendor, Jerusalem!

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This Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord – his manifestation to the gentile world (represented by the Magi) that he is the Bridegroom of the entire human race and all of creation, too. Reading Scripture through the lens of the Theology of the Body helps us to recognize this spousal symbolism throughout. This Sunday’s first reading, for example, is dripping with nuptial connotations; we just need to have eyes to see it. Whenever you encounter references to “Jerusalem” or “Zion” or “temple” in Scripture, think “Bride-Church-Woman-Mary.” And wherever you have reference to “her,” it’s not too difficult to recognize the reference to “Him” – Christ, the Bridegroom: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem, your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Is 60:1). This is the foretelling of the coming of the Bridegroom to the Bride, the coming of Christ to the Church, Jesus to Mary (Mary is the symbol of the Church). Mary is always the full revelation of “her” and Jesus is always the full revelation of “Him.” And when we follow the light, as did the Magi in the Gospel, we will always find “Him” with “her”: the masculine and the feminine elements together (see Mt 2:11). “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” (Is 60:5).

COR THOUGHTS 236: The Family Participates in the Life of the Trinity

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This Sunday, after having celebrated the birth of Christ, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  Sometimes I feel sorry for Joseph. What would it be like to be the only sinner in your family? It would seem that whenever something went wrong in the Holy Family, it was Joseph’s fault. But imagine how loved Joseph was by Jesus and Mary in his faults, failings, and sinfulness. That’s what allowed Joseph to grow in holiness. Are we loved any less by Jesus and Mary in our faults, failings, and sinfulness? Holiness does not mean we have it all together. Holiness means we have all of our broken, wounded humanity “presented to the Lord,” as we read in this Sunday’s Gospel. The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is much more profound than we may first realize. From all eternity, the Son offers himself to the Father in love. But now, as a newborn babe, it’s Joseph and Mary who “present him to the Lord.” Do you know what this means? A human family is now participating in the life of the Trinity. That’s holiness: to participate in the life and love of the God who himself is a family: Father, Son, and Spirit. Lord, here we are, as we are. We present ourselves to you with all our faults, failings, and sinfulness. Help us to live in the knowledge that we are part of your holy family. Amen!

COR THOUGHTS 235: The Mystery Now Manifested

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This weekend’s Gospel presents the familiar account of the Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel. Here “the mystery kept secret for long ages [is] now manifested” (second reading). What is it? God wants to marry us! While the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of God’s love for Israel in this way, here, through the conception of God’s Son in the womb of the Virgin, we learn, as Pope Francis asserts, that God’s “spousal love” for humanity is not just a “manner of speaking.” These are “real and true nuptials!” exclaims Francis. While Mary had “no relations with a man,” as we read in this Sunday’s Gospel, the virginal union Mary experienced with God when the “power of the Most High” overshadowed her was an experience of everything to which the marital embrace is meant to point. The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, therefore, is in no way a negation of human sexuality, as many tend to think. Rather, it is the deepest possible affirmation of the real purpose and meaning of sexuality: to point us to union with God. As Saint John Paul II observed, Mary’s virginity is motivated by her “desire for total union with God.” “She wanted to be his faithful bride.”