The Body
  • Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pentecost 19

First reading: Job 1:1; 2:1-10, Ps. 26 Alternate: Gen. 2:18-24, Ps. 8 • Heb. 1:1-4; 2:5-12 • Mark 10:2-16

Who will deliver us from this body of death? Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ who delivers us from the curse and sting of death, the trials of mortal existence, a sea of troubles, by hiding us in the sanctuary of his flesh. For the Word, “He [who] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being,” became flesh (Heb. 1:3). He assumed forever our nature and flesh, and thus our deliverance will be, come what may, in the flesh. God will deliver us from this body of death by defeating death and thus restoring the body to an ordered and beautiful and exquisite existence. The body will then flow in the movement of grace without resistance, supple and free, light and nimble. Spiritualized, it will still be a body, firm and sensory.

Behold what the Lord God has done. Having created the first human being from dirt and air, having given this person the power to name every living creature, God observes that the man is without a partner. Living and naming are not enough. The great physician goes to work, dripping the drug of sleep into the man. Then, opening his side, he pulls out a rib from which he forms a woman. The man sees that she “is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). They become one flesh; thus their differentiation returns to oneness. In this way they enter through their bodies into the mystery of communion.

Behold what Satan has done. Satan observes the body’s vulnerability. Satan speaks to the Lord: “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 2:4, 5). “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (2:7). “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” Job asks (2:10), persisting in integrity.

Job is mythic patience for all of chapter one and chapter two, sitting in ashes, scraping himself with a potsherd, until, beginning in chapter three and continuing to the end of chapter 37, he says “Why?” and “How long?” and “If this is punishment, should it not fit the crime?” and “Why was I even born?” He feels this despair because wounds have been etched in his flesh. Job looks at himself and says, “This is my body, this is my broken body.” Then, the ending: “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” A riddle! Moral arguments fail! The just and righteous man suffers. Still, he is raised in the body.

What God has put together, let no one put asunder. “Let no one” is a jussive subjunctive, a real command acknowledging that “what God has put together” is continually threatened. Satan is going to and fro on the earth. Marriages that begin in love fail. So Jesus recalls the beginning of love, bodies made for union. This reminder will not itself save every marriage, but it will offer hope and strength to many in the time of trial. After addressing marriage, Jesus invites to himself “little children,” whom we may interpret as both the fruit of marriage and a title for the disciples themselves. Notice why people bring their children: “In order that he might touch them” (Mark 10:13). Touching them, Jesus thinks, “This is my body; for I created many worlds” (Heb. 1:2).

Look It Up
Read Ps. 26:12. Keep your feet securely on the ground.

Think About It
Not “This is my soul,” but “This is my body.”

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