Theology of the Body: John Paul II's Legacy

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The Feast Day for St. John Paul II is on October 22. Much has been written about his life and papacy. Although it is impossible to do justice to the first major teaching he undertook as pope, I hope this short article inspires some to seek to become much more familiar with Theology of the Body. I believe it will be one of St. John Paul II’s greatest legacies. 

In its original release, Theology of the Body included one hundred and twenty nine talks, delivered between September 1979 and November 1984. Why did he write it? For one big reason, his entire papacy was devoted to bringing hope to a world in desperate need of hope. In Theology of the Body, he shares incredible insight to anyone who wishes to live a much fuller life.

His life experiences revealed to him that the culture has very little use for the idea that the visible body reveals the invisible person. But he says what we do with our bodies profoundly affects our souls and to ignore that greatly distances us from being more fully human. Today even more than when he released Theology of the Body the prevailing belief is that if God exists, God doesn’t really care what we do with our bodies. God is principally concerned that we respect each other as persons. St. John Paul II says that falls woefully short in exploring the very gift of God – love.

Theology of the Body completely affirms the goodness of sexuality. It clearly discloses that sex is not a dirty little word or limited to a bodily need and or function. God and sex can and should be spoken in the same sentence. God is the author of love and love is what drives a person to give, whether in marriage or in celibacy.

St. John Paul II believed that the nature of things is indispensable to understanding love and marriage. The problem with understanding how our world perceives marriage has a significant amount to do with an erroneous grasp of human nature. When one’s vision of humanity likens us to a mechanical machine that just happened to evolve then yes the body has no meaning, and what we do with it has no inner meaning and so marriage can’t possibly be comprehended in its truest form. St. John Paul II says the human body in its deepest nature was formed by God, it has spousal meaning, and the meaning for marriage flows from the nature of man and woman, male and female, created in the image of God.

He illuminates something that clearly needs to be understood if one is to understand love at a deeper level, each and every one of us is called to be a gift, a gift to one another and a gift to God and that this giving and receiving requires real presence. This life altering reality is becoming even more challenging in a world becoming more and more gender neutral, not to mention virtual.

When one begins to comprehend and sense the truths of Theology of Body, the Sacrament of Marriage comes much more into focus and its ordained purpose can be seen as a divine order of creation. For the invisible realities are made visible through the physical world. Why is this important? Because everything in the created order points to God. Once a person understands and accepts this, it changes the complexion of things. For everything we see and touch and do has something to do with the sacred. We need to touch it all aware of our connectedness to God, for it comes from God and reveals God in some way.

The beauty of Theology of the Body is it goes a long way in helping us discover the biggest why’s of life. Mysticism is the why behind everything – why we’re human, why we’re made, why we are female and male, and unless we know the real why we don’t know how to be fully human. Theology of the Body explores all these whys. Theology of the Body is a unique vehicle to call us back on the path to fuller humanness. 

Stay tuned, sometime this next year, St. Thomas the Apostle will be offering multi-week presentations on Theology of the Body.

MAKE DISCIPLES

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I’m pretty sure that most of us are at least partially aware of Mahatma Gandhi, but I’ll bet most of us never knew this about him. During his younger days, when he was a lawyer in South Africa, he read the Gospels at length and saw in the teachings of Jesus the answer to the major problem facing the people of India, the caste system. He seriously considered embracing the Christian faith. He went to a white-only church one Sunday morning to talk to the pastor about the idea of becoming Christian. When he entered the church, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and told him to go worship with his own kind. Gandhi left the church and never returned. He wrote years later in his memoirs: If Christians have caste differences also, I might as well remain a Hindu.

You and I have heard it said that we have a vocation’s crisis, a family crisis, a marriage crisis, a faith crisis. These crises are but symptoms of a much greater predicament. We have an identity crisis. We have forgotten our missionary calling: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:19-20).

 Jesus gave us 4 tasks: go – make – baptize – teach. At the very heart of the Great Commission is make disciples. Jesus told us over 2,000 years ago to not just make believers or practicing Catholics, but to make disciples. We were and are always a people meant to be on a mission. That mission is to bring good news wherever it has yet not been encountered. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be engaged in a lifelong process of learning from and about Jesus. This learning process is not haphazard, but intentional and disciplined. You and I know that just because someone believes in Jesus or goes to church does not necessarily mean they have a hunger for Jesus. Loving evangelization leads to hunger. To evangelize literally means to announce the good news, but what is the Good News? The Good News is not only to hear the wonderful truths of God’s plan for salvation, or to hear about God’s love and mercy. The Good News has a name and a face. The very person and presence of Jesus in our life is the Good News. The ultimate game-changer is in coming to know him and to love him. The difficult truth is many people have never come to know him personally, and therefore have no hunger for him. Less than 25% of all self-identified Catholics attend Mass on a weekly basis. Millions upon millions of Catholics are utterly convinced that they are missing nothing. 

I recently overheard a fellow Catholic discuss how they belonged to the one true church. The church Jesus founded. Just for the record, being part of the Catholic Church is not meant to provide home-court advantage. Being part of the Roman Catholic Church is meant to be a joyfully shared treasure. The truth is the Catholic Church by definition exists for the sake of those who do not belong. It’s not a club for the sake of its members. The Catholic Church is where we are meant to be led and united in our hunger for Jesus.

 Maybe we could reflect how well we are sharing our love for Jesus with others who aren’t present among us. Are we inviting others to come and experience Jesus? How much are we going out of our way to be hospitable to others on Sunday and beyond? Trust is gained through relationships, through caring, through making someone feel like they belong.

 The intentional disciple is always driven by a desire to see other people hear and respond to Jesus. The intentional disciple has a hunger for Jesus himself. They have a passion for people to experience the love of God in Jesus Christ. Intentional disciples always remember they are in the disciple making business.

Confirmation 2017

On behalf of the myself, the Confirmation Team, Deacon Ed and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, we want to thank Bishop Kicanas and all of our confirmandi and their sponsors for making this day truly amazing. Forty-two teens and two adults were confirmed in the faith. Below are the pics from throughout the ceremony.

We continue to be blessed to serve our youth community!

URLVD,
Starbuck

Parish-Wide Party!

This Sunday (April 30th) is our first ever Parish-Wide Party! The theme is "Rockin' in the 50's" and is a completely FREE event hosted by Life Teen, Knights of Columbus, Marian Club, St. Vincent de Paul, Little Rock Scripture Study, and Stronger Catholic Families! It's open to everyone of every age and will take place throughout the parish. We will have hamburgers and hotdogs, root beer floats and lots of fun activities! Bring the kids, too, as we'll have teen-led activities for the little ones!

Hope to see you there!

STEUBENVILLE WEST

This summer, STAP is attending the Steubenville West Conference at the UofA hosted by Life Teen and Franciscan University of Steubenville. It's a 3-day, unforgettable experience! Been on a retreat? It's like that...but on steroids and shared with 2,000 other teens from around the southwest!

Some of the very best speakers from around the country are presenting, including:

Chris Padgett
Fr. Joseph Espaillat
Rachel Leininger
Mark Hart
Jason Evert
Nic Frank

With worship being provided by:

Ike Ndolo
Emily Wilson

You DON'T want to miss out on this experience! Spots are limited so sign up quick!

Click here to download the registration form and turn it in ASAP!