In our second reading today, we heard, “Do you not know that you are that your bodies are members of Christ?” When we were baptized, we were changed. Perhaps nothing seemed different from the outside, but science has discovered repeatedly that human beings can see and detect only a small portion of what is real.
As we have been taught, we are spirit, soul, and body, and through baptism, our nature is different. This baptism makes us members of the body of Christ. In the one Spirit we have become living stones built into a spiritual house through baptism. We have entered into particular communion and conformity with Christ. The Scriptures elsewhere tell us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?”
We were buried with Him so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The reading also teaches us that we are now temples of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? A temple is a place where people go to encounter God, to be with God, to worship God. It is God’s home. The great Temple in Jerusalem was the place observant Jews went to offer sacrifice and worship God. But through baptism and confirmation, we have become the living temples of the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit, God, dwells in us. And although God wishes us to continue to encounter him in the physical church and in its liturgy, sharing in the Eucharist with our fellow believers for being members of Christ, we are also members, one of another.
Yet God also wishes to encounter us and be in relationship with us within ourselves. As Saint Augustine famously noted, “God, you were within me. But I was outside. You were with me. But I was not with you.” It took a while for Saint Augustine to discover God within, which is an encouragement for us.
Our physical senses are perhaps the easiest and most immediately accessible to us as human beings, and so it is common to seek satisfaction in them primarily. Saint Augustine spent many years desiring, looking outside of himself for what he did not know was within him. He writes, “In my unlovely loveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created.”
Saint Augustine is a good saint to pair with today’s reading, because precisely he struggled with what is being warned of in it. The reading says, “Brothers and sisters, since you are members of Christ, know that the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.”
It is precisely in the light of the exalted nature that we have as Christians that we have just been considering, in light of what we have become as Christians through baptism and the sacraments, that the Scriptures then warn us about immorality of the body.
As it says, “every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body.” In immorality of the body, people wound themselves in a different, more fundamental way. They violate the very orientation of their bodies. Perhaps that is why so many Saints write that the chief impediment to contemplation—the ability of Christians to see God—is unchastity. The body is for the Lord. Having become a member of Christ, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us.
In this, we are called to be God’s ambassadors here on Earth. We must profess before people the faith that we have received. We must love our neighbors, the needy, and even our enemies. We must advance the common good, above all, the salvation of souls. In this service, we will truly discover ourselves and find the satisfaction and joy of becoming who we were always meant to be.
And the Lord is for the body. God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and he sits the right hand of the Father, there to reign forever. And just as Jesus has been raised, so—the Lord is for our bodies—he will raise our bodies, and we shall reign with him in heaven.
We can probably say that the challenge of immorality of the body is particularly strong in the current time. Society is awash with messages that sexual activity should be unconstrained. It claims that there are no negative consequences to any sexual activity, that rather it is healthy and good to be sexually active in any way conceivable.
But in these ideas, they are simply repeating what the Corinthians were saying in the time of Saint Paul. Paul quotes them as saying “Everything is lawful for me.” They considered sexual satisfaction a matter as indifferent as food, and they attribute no lasting significance to bodily functions and pleasures.
But as Christians, we know otherwise, just as the Scriptures have taught us, these messages are simply mistaken. Saint Paul replies to the Corinthians, “Everything is lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is lawful for me. But I will not let myself be dominated by anything.”
What can we do increasingly to resist and pull away from the currents and temptations of the present time? Our sexuality finds its true fulfillment in relationship: healthy life-giving relationships where we know and love the other, and in return, we are also fully known and loved.
These relationships are not self-serving, oriented toward pleasing one’s self, or unhealthily dependent. They are free, free to pursue what is good and beneficial in all circumstances. These relationships, to be holy and free, must first pass through God. We must be friends with God. Fortunately, this is simply a matter of spending time with him, just as it is with any friendship.
“Come and you will see,” we are told today, Andrew, Simon Peter, and the other disciples spend time with the Lord and their lives are changed. Jesus Christ as the Son of God crosses all time and space. If we develop the habit of reading the Gospels, learning them, meditating on them, we can be with Jesus no less than Andrew and Simon Peter, today.
Our Christian memory is not constrained by time or place. Our meditations and prayers can bring us to the immediate present with Christ. We can live—live and walk with Him through everything he did in his life on Earth and continues to do today. We can become his intimate friends. If only we could learn to encounter God within as Saint Augustine did. He wrote:
You called, shouted,
broke through my defenses.
You flared, blazed,
and banished my blindness.
You lavished your fragrance—I gasped,
And now I paint for you.
I tasted you
and now I hunger and thirst.
You touched me
and I burned for your peace.
When at last I cling to you with my whole being
there will be no more anguish or labor for me,
and my life will be alive.
We will indeed be alive. Filled with God this Eucharist, we pray for the grace increasingly to live as full members of Christ, Temples of the Holy Spirit, free from every immorality. And may we increasingly become friends of God.
Get in Touch
Whether you have questions about discernment and vocations or want general information about Belmont Abbey, we invite you to reach out and ask!