Day 38: Freedom for the World
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
That guy (call him Tom) intimidated me: snorting and glowering as he benched 300 pounds, he typified the type of guy I tend to hate. And envy, with a little lust thrown in to keep me humble.
I would see him at the gym on occasion and felt conflicted over the Spirit’s prompt to evangelize him. Jesus reminded me that I need not come under concupiscence: ‘the lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life’ (1 Jn. 2:16), as these things are ‘from the world.’ Rather, ‘Jesus has overcome the world’ (Jn. 16:33), as must I. Standing in Christ, I can then, in the spirit of TOB, ‘distinguish the truth from falsity in the language of the body’ and so ‘author true or false meanings of that language’ (TOB 107:5).
That means that I need not see Tom as an object of fear, disgust, or lust. Just a son needing his Father. And me as a pretty good son who can represent Father well to persons outside Church. When I am inattentive to evangelization, I am not operating on all cylinders. Jesus and I conquer worldliness to save the world.
Tom began ‘gym-ing’ with Sue, his girlfriend. I engaged with them and could see right off that he had had many ‘friends’, and Sue fewer—she was smitten and Tom was restless, unsure about commitment. TOB sensitized me to this big guy’s capacity, and responsibility, to treat her with dignity: ‘...the man has a special responsibility, as if it depended more on him whether the balance is kept or violated or even—if it has already been violated—re-established’ (33:2).
I asked them about their relationship and sure enough—she was eager, he tentative. I playfully nudged them to greater commitment and ‘jested’ how my growth came mainly through loving ONE woman. Faithfully. That brought up God and brokenness and His sustaining love when our love lacks. We all agreed that without a power greater than ourselves ‘love’ is all but doomed. I assured them that Jesus surges for those who commit to another’s dignity.
Tom said out-of-the-blue: ‘No-one talks to me like this. You treat me like the dad I never had...’ He couldn’t say ‘and need.’ No need! Tom welcomes my TOB-tinged Gospel tailored to the deepest longing of his heart. To every heart. God made us to give our gift with dignity and we can discover Him in the loving. Evangelization sings to the tune of TOB. Freed from the world, we sing joyfully for its freedom.
‘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.’