“I am content with weaknesses,” writes St. Paul in this weekend’s second reading. I’m not. I’d like to be. I aspire to be. But I’m not. I’m angry at my weaknesses. I tend to beat myself up over them. Why? Because I grew up thinking that they made me unlovable. And being unlovable is unbearable. So I want to hide them out of fear, just like Adam hid his nakedness in the garden. Only the experience of God’s unconditional love can transform the fear of our weaknesses being on display into St. Paul’s freedom to boast in them, trusting that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses. In the end, whether we are the holiest saint or the most wretched sinner, weakness is all we have to offer. “We must take St. Therese [of Lisieux] at her word,” wrote Pope Pius XII, “when she invites the most unregenerate as well as the most perfect to count nothing of value before God, save the radical weakness and spiritual poverty of a sinful creature.” St. John Paul II insisted that the “Lord is not discouraged by human weakness.” Rather, he responds “by proposing a more stable and intimate union.” That’s what St. Paul experienced in his weakness: a more stable, more intimate union with the Lord. St. Paul, pray for me!
In this weekend’s first reading we hear that “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” First point: death – that is, the separation of body and soul – was never part of God’s original plan. Second point: as St. John Paul II made clear, we image God not only as individuals, but, since God’s own nature is Communion (the eternal exchange of life-giving love in the Trinity), we image God also and even more so in the call to life-giving communion that God inscribed right in our sexuality as male and female. Our bodies both reveal the divine mystery of Communion and enable us to participate in it. The angels have two responses before the mystery of the human body: awe or envy. Third point: the devil fell out of envy. What do we have that he doesn’t have? Bodies. What can we do that he can’t do? Participate bodily in the eternal Mystery of God’s Fatherhood. This is why Satan aims his most potent arrows at our bodies, at our sexuality, at our call to marriage and family life. He wants to separate us from our bodies. It’s called death. But as the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter in this Sunday’s Gospel foretells, death is not the final word. Resurrection is!
There is much that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body can help us understand in this weekend’s readings, but I will limit my thoughts to this one, critical passage: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). What does it mean to be a “new creation in Christ”? It means that the God who created us through the natural means of the union of our parents has re-created us (redeemed us) through the supernatural means of the union of Christ and the Church. And this means that both our creation and our re-creation (redemption) are “marital” or “nuptial” realities. We are made through the natural marriage of man and woman and we are remade through the supernatural marriage of Christ and the Church. The order of the new creation draws from the order of the old and even “clothes itself,” Saint John Paul tells us, “in the figure and form of the primordial sacrament” (TOB 97:2). Marriage is that “primordial sacrament” – the fundamental, first, and original proclamation and revelation of God’s mystery in the world. While we have all inherited the certainty of death from our natural parents, through the gift of Baptism, we have inherited the possibility of eternal life through our supernatural parents: God our Father and the Church our Mother. These are the “new things” that have come.