1 Sam 3:3B-10,19 / Ps 40: 2,4,7-8,8-9,10 / 1 Cor 6:13C-15A, 17-20 / Jn 1:35-42
Last week I was sitting half asleep in the Delta Lounge at JFK watching planes take off and land, trying to stay awake so I wouldn’t miss my connecting flight to St. Louis. As I sat their a woman came up to me and asked me, “why are you Catholic priests are always telling us what we can and can’t do with out bodies.” As we talked it became apparent that this women, somehow, probably through no fault of her own, fell into the trap of believing the lie “it is my body, it is my life, I can do with it whatever I want.” Today’s readings challenge that perspective and invites us to learn a lesson from John the Baptist.
In today’s Gospel, as John the Baptist is standing on the banks of the Jordan river, ministering to many people, he catches sight of Jesus, the same man from Nazareth that all the other people saw, but John didn’t just see just another man he saw the Word made Flesh. John the Baptist saw the same person that all of the others saw but recognized what everyone else missed. Sadly today many people look at other people or even themselves and see just another person, a cluster of cells, a product to be used for their own pleasure and then disposed of when they are finished. Our bodies are not simply collections of molecules which entrap our souls, no our bodies are sacred, because from the moment of our baptism God has desired to dwell inside them. As Christians we believe it was through Him that we were created and through His blood that we have been redeemed. Our bodies are not simple pieces of property that we can buy, sell, discard, manipulate or do whatever we want with because we have been purchased at a price the immeasurable price of Christ’s blood. Our bodies are not simply instruments for self-gratification. If we defy the laws of God and nature by buying into the lie, it is my body, it is my life, I can do with it whatever I want, we may have the illusion of happiness for a short time but in the long run it can lead to destruction because our body is not made for immorality but for the Lord. St. Paul is clear, we cannot pretend that our souls can be pure if we misuse our bodies.
Sadly today we live in a culture that encourages us to see ourselves as lords of our own bodies and in an attempt to show that lordship we often get upset when the our Church tries to tell us what to do with our bodies especially with our reproductive health. It is no secret that every year millions of women are given the contraceptive “pill” or some other device that deliberately alters her reproductive system. From the very beginning of Her existence the Church has spoken out against the use of artificial contraceptives, not because She is stuck in some Middle Age mentality or because Her teachings are too rigid but because She recognizes the dignity of each woman. Let’s pause for a moment and consider what the use of contraceptives says about a woman. Does it not say that her reproductive system is a disease that needs to be controlled and manipulated at any cost to physical, emotional or mental health? I mean why else do we take drugs or undergo medical procedures other than to cure an illness? Husbands you too play an invaluable role, after all you are half of the equation. Your wife is not an object and I know you don’t even want to give the perception that she is, but she needs your cooperation and support. Perhaps you are sitting there thinking, what does this have to do with me, well St. Paul is clear that what affects one of us affects all of us. Our Church is constantly attacked for upholding the dignity of women with her teaching against artificial contraception, all of us can stand up and defend the Church when we hear her attacked.
My brothers and sisters, the Church upholds Her teaching against artificial contraception because She honors women for who they are priceless and irreplaceable gifts to the world. All of us who have been baptized were purchased by God’s own blood, but God does not purchase us to be slaves, no he bought us to ransom us, to bring us into freedom as His son or daughter. It is out of love for every woman and her husband that the Church holds up for us methods of natural family planning, rather than artificial methods, which treat the woman as another object to be used. Contrary to popular belief, these methods of natural family planning are scientific methods of fertility awareness which can be used either to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, and which, when used properly expresses the truth that each of you is a priceless and irreplaceable gift to the world. In recent years a tremendous amount of scientific research has gone into studying the female reproductive system and as a result many different methods have been created whose effectiveness has been scientifically verified in leading medical journals.
God has given each human person a tremendous gift in their fertility. Each and everyone of us is worth far more than any form of self-domination. Today we have a choice do we want to become lords over our own bodies or do we want to answer the call to follow after our Lord by allowing Him into our lives, our relationships and into your marriage. Perhaps the Lord is calling you to a deeper respect for your body. Why not respond today, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Here at St. Joseph parish we are blessed to have many great resources available on the counter in the gathering space. I invite you to take a look at some of those resources or reach out to myself or one of the priests with any questions or concerns you may have. The decision is yours to make, but the decision will make all the difference in this world and in the next.