Sunday Scripture reading: Jan. 17, 2021: God and the body
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
1) 1 Sm 3:3-10, 19
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10
2) 1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20
Gospel: Jn 1:35-42
Today, St. Paul says that God has designed our bodies for union with him and has made us parts of Christ's body. Christ is in us; we are in him. This is a closeness to God more intimate than we can comprehend.
The odd thing is that in the middle of talk about God's presence in us, Paul makes reference to sexual sin. How did that get into the discussion, we might wonder.
Why Paul mentions sexual sin becomes clearer if we restore the sentences that have been omitted (for understandable reasons) by those who composed the lectionary. In what has been deleted, Paul counsels the men in the church to stop going to the brothel.
He gets into speaking about our being parts of Christ's body because that helps to show what's wrong with prostitution. Guys, how can you take a part of Christ's body -- which is what you are -- and use it to violate the dignity of a woman who is one of his human creatures?
In his brief discussion of sex, Paul cites the book of Genesis. When a man and a woman have sexual relations, they become "one flesh." It is not just sexual organs but two whole persons that are joined together.
Our sexuality, then, is a capacity to be profoundly united with another person; it is a kind of powerful adhesive (Genesis speaks of husband and wife "clinging" or "cleaving" to each other -- the word means sticking).
So, what if a man and a woman unite sexually but do not also join their lives? After an hour or a few weeks or some years, they go their separate ways. What effect will that have? They have used their most powerful personal adhesive to join but have ripped apart. What happens to two boards that are glued together and are then torn apart?
If I engage a woman's deepest capacity for union and then walk away, she will be hurt; her capacity for union with another person will be damaged -- and so will mine. I will have harmed myself. As Paul says, "The immoral person sins against his own body."
There is a positive side to this. Just as sex outside marriage does harm, the lovemaking of husband and wife is kind of Velcro that can fasten their two lives, two hearts, together.
How wonderful is God's design of the human body!
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.