Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
(II John 4-9; Luke 17:26-37)
In many places throughout the United States and Western Europe Catholic churches are less than half full on Sundays. People no longer worship God at mass as they did two generations ago. Certainly some of the fallout comes from clerical abuse of children. However, before that scandal was publicized, the numbers had begun to drop. Many people are following “progressive” ideas which today’s first reading rails against.
At the time of the writing of the Second Letter of John the progressive ideas include belief that Jesus was not really human. At least a few people at the end of the first century believed that he did not have a physical body. They are likely tired of talk prohibiting sexual relations outside marriage and weary of living up to it. They figure that it is his teachings and not his death and resurrection that save. That is, they began to think that one may gain eternal life by getting along with others and rendering helpful service. Who one goes to bed with does not factor into the equation. The “presbyter,” who writes the letter, refutes such an idea. First, he commends those who “walk in the truth” of moral righteousness. Then he condemns those who teach ideas like Jesus’ not having a body for leading others astray.
It seems like things have not changed so much over twenty centuries. Sexual morality is still a great impediment to many today. We do not like to restrain ourselves sexually. But this is why Jesus’ humanity is so important. It not only shows us that it is possible to live a sexually upright life; it also enables us to do it. By dying and rising in the flesh, Christ provides us the grace to live with minds and hearts directed to him.