GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time for Year B is one of those occasions in which the Church substitutes a reading from John's Gospel for the ordinary reading from St. Mark.
So in this case, we have a very important, very famous story of when Peter and Andrew first meet Jesus.
It's in the Gospel of John 1:35-42.
So let's read the Gospel together and then we will go back and try to unpack it, and look at it in light of the Old Testament, as well as the Responsorial Psalm. So in John 1:35-42 we read these words:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).
Great episode here, lots we could say about it.
I'll try to offer a few observations that I think are interesting, significant.
First point about this story that's worth highlighting is the fact that John the Baptist had disciples.
It's really important for us to remember.
Sometimes we think about John as a prophet, out in the wilderness, you know, dressed in camel's hair, eating bugs for dinner, locust of course, the locust with honey.
We kind of imagine him as a solitary figure, right, and certainly not one that we would necessarily want to spend any time with — although obviously the crowds went down to him to be baptized — but the reality was...
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The idea of theologizing about the human body is not something John Paul II came up with. Paul’s already doing this in 1 Corinthians. And the reason I read the full context there is because I want you to understand why he is pushed to address this topic. If you recall, he’s writing to the Church at Corinth. And Corinth was a port city. It was known for being not only cosmopolitan in the various groups of people that lived there that came from all over, but it was also known for sexual immorality. And so one of the first points we want to highlight here in this text is that when the Revised Standard Version or when the New American Bible says immorality, the Greek word is actually more explicit than that. The Greek word is porneia
, from which we get the word “pornography.”
So you don’t have to know a lot of Greek to understand the sexual connotations of the Greek word porneia
. So when Paul says that:
The body is not meant for immorality… (1 Corinthians 6:13c)
What he means is that the body is not for sexual immorality, in particular. The body is not made for porneia
. I’ll never forget...every time I see this verse, though, one time I had a student turn in an essay, and they quoted and they said, “The body is not made for immortality.” And I was like, “Well, you might want to go check the Apostles Creed on that one again, because that’s exactly what it’s made for in terms of the resurrection of the body.” It was just a typo, but every time I see it, it comes back to mind.
But a part of the problem there is that it’s lacking an adjective to make it explicit, what kind of immorality is involved. Paul’s not talking about fiscal immorality here or political corruption...or he’s not talking about theft or false witness. He’s talking about sexual immorality. That’s the context. So what’s interesting is he begins his discussion of porneia
and the body with a statement that:
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”...
So let’s pause there. Why does he bring that up as an analogy? That verse isn’t included in the lectionary, but I included it because I want you to see the context of his statements here that would otherwise be very puzzling. So what Paul’s doing there is he’s making an argument from what philosophers or theologians call teleology, from the Greek word telos
. It means an “end” or “goal.” So the teleology of the body is basically—it’s just this fancy way of saying the purpose of the body.
So if you look at the human body, you look at its various parts, the parts are made for something. They have a purpose. They have a telos
; they have an end. They have a goal for which they were created. And the stomach was created for food. If you put food into the stomach, it’ll digest it. If you have one of those disorders where you eat things that you can’t actually digest, like some...there are different disorders that sometimes children will eat dirt or they’ll eat chalk. They have a mineral deficiency. Sometimes people will have the temptation to eat metal or coins or things like that. None of those things are going to actually work, because your body—your stomach—is not made for dirt or chalk or coins or metal. It’s made to digest food.
So Paul here...he’s drawing an analogy from nature, from the nature of the created body. But what’s fascinating about it is, if you were writing this letter and you said “food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food”...and then your next step was “the body is not meant for sexual immorality,” you would probably think that Paul is going to say, “The body is not meant for porneia
, but it’s meant for marriage”...or it’s meant for procreation, or it’s meant for a union of a man and a woman, like Genesis 1 and 2.
But he doesn’t do that. He zags when you might have zigged, or zigs where you might have zagged. Instead of saying the body isn’t for sexual immorality but for marriage, he says:
The body is not meant for [porneia
], but for the Lord…
...and this is staggering:
...and the Lord for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:13c)
Now what in the world does he mean to say that the human body is created for God, for the Lord—it says the Lord here—and that the Lord is for the body. There’s a relationality. In other words, what he’s saying is, the teleology...the ultimate teleology of the human body is actually the Lord Christ Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now why would Paul say that? Well, it’s because Paul is thinking theologically. He’s thinking christologically here. And in Paul’s theology of who Jesus is, Jesus isn’t just the Son of God. He isn’t just the Lord. He’s also the divine bridegroom. He’s the bridegroom Messiah, and the Church is His Bride that’s made for union with Him...and not just some kind of moral union, but there’s a bodily union. It’s not sexual, but it’s bodily between Christ and the Church, because every single person who’s baptized becomes a member of His Body. It’s Paul, more than any other author, who uses the image of the Body of Christ to describe the Church.
So let me give you an example of this. This is from 2 Corinthians 11:2. So Paul writes another letter to the same community, and this is what he says to them:
I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband.
Fascinating. When did Paul betroth the Corinthians to Christ? Well, when he preached the Gospel to them and then as he says in 1 Corinthians 1, when he began to baptize them. He united them with Christ in Baptism in a virginal, nuptial union. They entered into the new covenant, which isn’t just a special relationship with Christ. It’s a marriage covenant. It’s a nuptial covenant. It’s a marital bond that unites Christ with the believers in the mystical Body of the Church.
So what Paul is doing here is he’s laying the groundwork for showing just how serious sexual sin is by reminding the Corinthians that if you’re baptized, you actually belong to Christ. You’re a member of Christ’s Body. You’re a member of Christ’s bride. And it’s unfortunate—at least in my view, although I don’t get to make these decisions—that the Church hops over the next couple of verses, because he drives home the reality of that point by saying:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
The Greek word there, mḕ génoito
, Paul means “by no means”—absolutely not.
Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.”
Alright, so I think the Church probably omits these pastorally because of the mention of prostitution and the explicit nature of the verses. Maybe they thought that in a pastoral context, that might be problematic or scandalous. There are kids that go to church and whatnot. I’m not sure. I don’t know the exact reason, but what I do know is that for Paul, he’s definitely getting the Corinthians’ attention here by helping them understand in a very real way for Paul that what Christians do with their bodies, Christ does through them, because they are really members of Christ...which is a wonderful thing when they’re performing virtuous actions—acts of charity. It’s Christ working in me, Paul says:
“...it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me… (Galatians 2:20b)
But if a person is engaged in mortal sin and in sexual immorality, Paul is saying...don’t you understand, that if you’re a member of Christ and you make your body a member of a prostitute, that you are in a sense uniting Christ to a prostitute? And then he says, God forbid that someone do something like that.
Now why does he have to say this to the Corinthians? Well, as you read through the letter in Corinth, you’re going to realize that these converts from paganism haven’t quite gotten the theology of the body yet. They don’t yet understand their bodies through the Jewish lens of creation and redemption. They’re thinking of their bodies in the way the pagans did. The pagans, by and large, didn’t have a problem with the kind of sexual immorality associated with, say for example, prostitution.
So what’s likely going on here is that some members of the Church at Corinth are still visiting the brothels in Corinth, so Paul has to address the question of porneia
(sexual sin) by explaining to them who they really are and what their bodies are in Christ. And that’s where the Church picks up. The lectionary says:
But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
And then it says:
That’s a weak translation as well. Literally, it’s “flee from sexual immorality.” Run away from it. You see it? Go the other direction. He’s not saying shun any kind of immorality. He’s saying run away from sexual immorality. Well, why? Because every other sin the man commits is outside the body, but in this one, he sins against his own body. And he says:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?
Now that’s a staggering claim on Paul’s part, because it links the Christian not just with the second person of the Trinity, Christ, but also with the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Now that’s not the language Paul uses, but Paul certainly has a triune God that he speaks about—God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So here he’s describing the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in the believer, and thereby making the body into a temple. Now, that’s a very Jewish concept. The Jews had the idea of the Jerusalem temple as essentially the dwelling place of God on Earth. You can see this—it goes all the way back to Exodus 40, when Moses builds the tabernacle. The tabernacle is just a portable tent, but when the glory cloud of the Lord descends upon the tabernacle in Exodus 40, it transforms it into a temple. It transforms it into a sanctuary. It transforms it into the dwelling place of God on Earth.
So for Paul, every single Christian’s body is the equivalent of the tabernacle of Moses, except now the Spirit of the glory of God is dwelling within the body of the individual and not in a tent made by human hands. So what Paul is saying here is..he’s not just trying to get the Corinthians to understand christology and ecclesiology—theology of Christ, theology of church—he’s also trying to get them to understand pneumatology.
When he wants to deal with sexual sin, he doesn’t focus on, well, you know...it’s going to lead to trouble in your life. It’s going to lead to problems, broken relationships, and pain. He focuses on the theological problems with it. It says by definition, if your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, then sexual sin in particular isn’t just wrong, it’s a sacrilegious desecration of something that’s holy. It doesn’t just harm you; it desecrates the holiness of the Christian body. Because a Christian’s body has been set apart for Christ. A Christian is consecrated to Christ. A Christian belongs to the bride of Christ. And just like if a bride were to give her body to someone who was not her husband, it would be a desecration of her body and a violation of the marriage covenant. So too, for a Christian to engage in porneia
is a desecration of the Christian body and a violation of the Holy Spirit dwelling within—so a very serious thing. So Paul says, you have to understand:
You are not your own; you were bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)
What’s he referring to there? He’s referring to the Passion of Christ, which was given as a ransom for many. So Paul’s point is exactly the opposite of the kind of modern day slogan, “It’s my body, I can do what I want with it.” Well, not if you were baptized, according to Paul. If you were baptized, if you have faith, then your body belongs to Christ, and He paid for it with the infinitely valuable price of His blood...which makes any desecration of the Christian body that much more serious, that much more grave. That’s why Paul is saying here: Flee from porneia
. Run from it. Don’t play with it. Don’t dabble in it. Don’t put yourself in the near occasion of it. Get away from it. Run away from it, straight the other way, because it’s particularly deadly.
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