Day 10: Welcoming the Gift of the Other
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
‘The inner man must open himself to life according to the Spirit…in order to find again and again the value of the body, freed by redemption from the bonds of concupiscence’ (TOB 58:5).
Of what value was my body to another? I wondered, given my strange in-between status. At 21, I was full of knowledge about Jesus and His design for sexuality but unclear as to the purpose of MY sexuality. I was no longer dominated by concupiscence, or disordered desire; still, its lustful memory resounded far more powerfully than any dream of pure, reciprocal communion with a woman.
Eden seemed miles away from the fragile grasp I had secured on steering clear of ‘gay’ seduction, be it fantasy, motive, or action. With new purity, yet still weak, I imagined myself to be a disembodied missionary in France, biking around Provence and looking for equally unreal subjects to convert (I was mastering French at UCLA and had traded my car for a bicycle). A friend torpedoed my good-natured Gnosticism: ‘What gives you a pass from dating women?’
I didn’t know. In waking up from my ‘gay’ slumbering, would I see woman as she was: not a fun empathic buddy but someone who summoned my desire and my responsibility to love her in truth, even dignity? Could I do so?
In other words, did freedom from the down-drag of concupiscence also mean freedom for her?
If I read TOB correctly, then I believe that Pope St. John Paul II would say a resounding ‘yes.’
The good pope views ‘lust’ (1 Jn 2:16) as an equal opportunity offender against ‘the spousal character of the body’—God’s call upon our humanity to fulfill our deepest meaning by expressing love through our bodies as a gift to the other (TOB 32:1). He claims that although lust (of whatever kind) ‘habitually threatens’ this spousal meaning, it has not the power to suffocate that meaning or render it foreign to the human heart (TOB 32:3)!
Jesus awakens the human heart from lust’s domination then invites us to rediscover true desire for love and communion.
‘The command of love--the new ethos of the Gospel—is an appeal to human freedom, an appeal for its fullest realization and…its fullest use of the power of the human spirit’ (TOB 53:1).
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’