“Come on people, you should know this by now!”
With a half-playful, half-serious smile on his face, theologian and Theology of the Body enthusiast Christopher West stood at the front of the room.
We stared back blankly, frantically searching our Theology of the Body Institute storehouses for what he might be referencing.
He pleaded. “This is the CENTRAL tenet of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body! Have I failed you?! Please someone tell me I have not failed you.”
Slowly, a woman towards the front sheepishly raised her hand.
“Yes my dear sister,” Christopher beckoned.
She began, and as the first words rolled across her lips, Christopher’s hands flung up into the air in triumph!
“The body, and it alone is capable of making visible the invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it” (TOB February 20, 1980).
Let’s translate that to a third grade reading level.
Our bodies can do something amazing! They can show us things that are hidden and special, like things that are about God and the spirit. Our bodies were made to take things we can’t see and make them real in the world we can see. It’s like our bodies are a special sign of these hidden things.
Thank you ChatGPT 😉.
In other words, you want to know about God and His will for your life? You better get good at some holy reflection on what’s going on in your body.
I’m in a group of 12 men who have been doing this self-reflective work together. We’ve been spending the last two months diving into understanding our unique design.
What’s this mean?
We’ve been systematically looking at our own experience. What do we do well? What causes us to cringe? What motivates us? Where do we feel most connected to God and others? What do we effortlessly do better than most people?
The answers to these questions are our bodies making visible the invisible – our spirit and the divine spirit working within us.
The stuff we do effortlessly reveals God’s plan for us.
The stuff that inspires us reveals God’s plan for us.
The activities that produce incredible fruits of the spirit reveal God’s plan for us.
Now, on the flip side, we’re also connecting with the invisible movements of the evil spirit in us. And no, I’m not talking about demonic possession (geez that escalated quickly). I’m talking about where we choose fear over faith, self-righteousness over compassion, presumption over wonder, and self-protection over self-gift.
This is just as important to know. The marine in me knows that when you can recognize the enemy’s tactics, you can start getting good at counter-ambushing.
And the fruits are incredible! There are priests claiming their gift of preaching, men recognizing that they’re ready for a career change, and guys discovering that things they once saw as weaknesses could actually be redeployed as an incredible gift to their spouse and kids.
These are men getting in touch with that invisible reality, that invisible spirit, moving in them. And it makes all the difference.
We’re really good at sharing the universal truths of the Catholic Church. Kudos catechists.
And, standby for my opinion…
By and large, we suck at helping people recognize the unique and particular movements of the unrepeatable and personal word of God that is working in them.
Think about it. When was the last time that you were at church and someone asked you about the unique, irreplaceable, and unrepeatable gift that God gave you to share with the world?
And THEN, they pulled up a chair, sat down, and actually listened to your response.
What if the Church stopped being terrible at this one thing? On the flip side, what if it became the opposite. What if it became the place to discover, embrace, and mature in your unique design and personal calling?
I think we can do it! I think we can crush it! I think the Church is uniquely qualified for this task!
Fulton Sheen said it well. He observed that when the Church drops things, the world picks them up and twists them in all confusing and contorted ways.
We can see this. What is the LGBTQ+ movement other than a group of people desiring to be seen as unique and unrepeatable. What is the Diversity Equality and Inclusion movement other than a cry to be seen as valuable, equal in dignity, and again, unique and unrepeatable.
What’s the problem with these movements? It’s not the desire to be seen with dignity, as unique, or worthy of esteem and reverence. The problem is they haven’t gone deep enough.
What makes me unique and unrepeatable from others is not my skin color, social-economic status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or any other single surface level attribute.
What truly makes me different is the unique and unrepeatable word that has been spoken to me alone, by God, in time immemorial. A word that is so unique that I don’t even have the language to utter it aloud. A word so infinite I can only communicate it across an eternity. My body literally needs to be transformed, divinized, in order to reveal this hidden word.
You want to evangelize the LGBTQ+ community? You want to evangelize the wayward youth? Help them get in touch with this word. Help them discover that the Catholic Church is the only place where they can experience this divinizing transformation through grace and the Sacraments to fulfill their purpose of revealing their hidden word to the world.
But before you help them, you better discover your word yourself.
What if that became our focus as a church–helping people to get in touch with that unique, unrepeatable, and irreplaceable word? What would that do to the individual? What would that do for the married couple? What would that do for the family, or the Body of Christ as a whole?
What would that do for you?
I’m curious to know your word. Are you?