Homily – January 17, 2021

II Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year B

The 1981 British historical drama, Chariots of Fire, is based on the true story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics. One of them is Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian. His parents were missionaries in China. In a scene with his sister, Jenny, Liddell explains that he plans to go to China to be a missionary but first he needs to run … he says to her: “God made me fast and when I run I can feel his pleasure … its not just fun, to win is to honor Him.” The point here is that Liddell recognizes that God has given him a great gift and he uses this gift, his physical nature, his body, for God’s glory.

St Paul says something interesting in the second reading: “the body is not made for immorality, but for the Lord …” Here he speaks of the dignity our physical nature. The body is a means of communication. He had just spent a few verses condemning certain vices and sins that suggest the community in Corinth is guilty of having engaged – namely sins of a sexual nature. Some Biblical theologians propose the idea that there was a slogan in circulation among the Christian community there: “for me everything is permissible.” Here, St. Paul seems to indicate just the opposite. Namely, that sin, particularly the sins of a sexual nature, have a way of communicating – the body communicates, it speaks… St. Paul is asking the question – what language does your body speak? Does it speak the language of self-indulgence, pride, gratification, etc? For if so, we can become enslaved to these passions and emotions … OR does the body speak of God, is the glory of our God communicated in and through our bodies because, as he states: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?”

Have you ever heard someone say to you: “I’m spiritual but not religious”? It is indicative of a certain philosophy condemned in the earliest beginnings of the Church – Gnosticism. Many, many people embrace this philosophy even today … why? Easy, because Gnosticism or agnosticism, claims that only the spiritual matters. The earthly, the body, the material world, is all evil. It places a certain emphasis on spiritual knowledge over and above doctrine, dogma, rites, rituals, devotionals, and so on. It considers salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical insights. Now, I mention this because many Catholics also fall into this false ideology … why do I need confession? What is the point of going to church, the rosary, sacraments … doesn’t God care more about my soul then these practices? “God made me fast and when I run I can feel His pleasure” …

Yes, God does care. You see, the practices of our faith … the dogmas, doctrines, processions, rosaries, benedictions, devotionals, sacraments … all of them touch the senses in order to lift the soul. The practices of our faith, how we engage in penance and prayer all of it helps us to understand that our faith is an embodied faith … we are not a separated soul and body, our bodies are not evil … they are meant to communicate the language of God to others … how we live our lives in our bodies will speak to others – do I live for myself or for the Lord? Am I enslaved to my own emotions and passions or am I able to set aside my ego, my wants and needs in order to communicate love – God – to others.

Our religiosity, the stuff of our religion, all of it, trains us, helps us to understand the language of God so that we might be able to communicate Him to others. We do not live our faith outside our bodies – as if God is only in our head – we are body, mind, heart, soul and spirit … its all connected … And especially in our country right now, we need to be able to communicate this to others … and as such, we need religion, our religion to train us in the language of love, in the respect and dignity of others.

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