May 11, 2016

St. Francis once referred to his physical body as "Brother Ass," feeling that, though useful, it was a similar to that beast of burden who often needs the motivation that comes from the stick, as much as from the carrot.

St. Paul writes in Romans 7:18-19, "For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want."

We hardly need reminders of our human imperfection; as Lauren wrote yesterday, our day-by-day interactions prove us guilty of that universal offense. How easy is it to despair when we look at the size of the ladder we must climb, by God's good grace, to heaven? But when looking at the immensity of the distance between humanity and divinity, C.S. Lewis would argue another reaction: laughter.

Lewis, Francis, and Paul all strongly caution against expecting perfection from our decidedly un-glorified bodies. We simply don't have enough God in us yet. So instead of dejection, we might try a bit of levity (a guest, who upon our invitation, can quickly surprise us by turning into joy). Few things cure frustration faster than a dose of jovial self-deprecation. How can we not laugh when God, in all His power and glory and hugeness, came down to us, who get frustrated when we can't tie our shoes on the first go around? Maybe that one's just me.

Now, I would never dare to say that we are not glorious creations, lest we think our humanity is, on the bad side, anything less than a gift, and on the worse side, a shameful "tomb" of the soul. God's love has redeemed everything, including our humanity. As such, there is an inherent seriousness to our own misfortunes and shortcomings. But neither should we glorify the body, especially in the sense of humanistic worship that I mentioned last week.

I hope, along with Lewis, we can say:

"We are composite creatures, rational animals, akin on one side to angels, and on the other to tom-cats...We have reached the stage at which nothing is more needed than a roar of old-fashioned laughter. It is a bad thing not to be able to take a joke. Worse, not to take a divine joke; made...for our endless benefit." 

An inspired lightness of heart is a sure sign of a believer who recognizes the relationship in the proper order: God is god and we are not.

Praised be Jesus Christ, whose victory swallows up any of our small defeats, should we let Him reign in us.

 

Frassati NY