"I think that among the answers Christ would give to the people of our times and to their questions, often so impatient, fundamental would still be the one he gave to the Pharisees.
In answering these questions, Christ would appeal first of all to the 'beginning.'"
| St. John Paul II |
Sometimes you need to go back to go forward.
What a gift to be created out of love and “willed for [our] own sake."
Who we are. As we are. Raw material.
In our primordial beginnings, our creation occurred in original solitude. We are all knit in the silence of the womb. The depths of our minds and hearts are knowable to ourselves in a way we can never fully articulate to another.
In the beginning, the human person is unmistakably called to God first.
“The desire for God is written in the human heart…only in God will [we] find the truth and happiness [we] never stops searching for.”
Since the Fall, this search and discovery is less of a clear trail and more of a wilderness walk. Our experience of solitude becomes less about encountering God and more about fleeing our own woundedness. We crank up the volume and drown out the silence. We substitute intimacy for entertainment.
Perhaps the solution is a metaphorical walk in the garden - naked and exposed and safely received by the God who loves us first.
Quoted text Gaudium et Spes 22 and Catechism of the Catholic Church 27
“The created man finds himself from the first moment of his existence before God in search of his own being...today one would say, in search of his own ‘identity.’”
| St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body 1.5.5 |
Our personal identity is uniquely our own, a gift received.
From the beginning we are made to be at home in our internal and external experiences, as “being[s] at once corporeal and spiritual.” Integrity means "of the whole." Our souls have an intellect to think, passions to feel, and free will to choose. We are our bodies, and our inner life is expressed in and through them. Our embodiment “passes through masculinity and femininity, which are, as it were, two ‘incarnations’ of the same metaphysical solitude.”
We are ourselves. People are people. There's no way around it. But how rarely is this whole in perfect harmony! Our minds are muddled, our emotions unpredictable, and our wills often unreliable. So often our bodies are our slaves or our masters.
And sometimes we cry out for emotions or organs to be otherwise.
"When we speak about the full meaning of the body...we also include every effective experience of the body." Same sex desires or discord within one's maleness or femaleness are valid experiences of the human person. People who experience these things deserve to be seen with dignity, received with love, and heard with respect. Their origins and the questions they pose are complex human concerns that deserve thorough, sensitive pastoral accompaniment.
Nonetheless, this challenge "does not modify the reality itself...which the human body is (and does not cease to be) in the sexuality that belongs to it, independently of the states of consciousness or experiences."
We are who we are before God. All of us face the lifelong work to grow in understanding, acceptance, and joy in our whole selves as we were intentionally designed.
Quoted text from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 362, Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body 10.1, 31.6, 31.5
“Being in the image of God the human individual possess the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone…capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.”
| Catechism of the Catholic Church 357 |
It is good that we are different, yet the same. For the stability of the universal human family, we can't live in isolation or competition. Original community is rooted in masculinity and femininity, in equality and complementarity.
"Man and woman were in a particular way ‘given’ to one another by the Creator … in the whole perspective of the existence of the human race."
This isn't about broken stereotypes or imperfect social expectations. We just plain need each other. We need grandfathers and grandmothers and the old man who plays chess in the park. We need mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, mentors and guides. We need brothers and sisters. We need spouses. We need companions on the way. We need sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, children to nurture. We need vibrant churches and healthy neighborhoods. We need a secular sphere of mutual respect and collaboration for the common good. We need the Body of Christ.
After all, we've heard it said we don't do so great when we feel unrelated and alone.
Quoted text is from Pope St. John Paul II, - Theology of the Body 18. 4.
“The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love."
| Compendium of Social Doctrine 34 |
Regardless of our own experience of desire, every person faces down the same reality jarringly expressed in Adam and Eve: original choice. Like them, the impact of our decisions affects far more than ourselves alone.
This isn't always easy to see. How easy to be egotistical and grasping. How easy to choose what appears delightful, attractive for collecting new experiences, and a solution to the hunger for love that aches and aches and aches.
Our freedom is the result of choice, and difficult ones at that. It demands that each person "reach a more mature and complete evaluation...of [their] own heart." As we persevere in pursuit of virtue, we come upon "the discovery of a new order of values...which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful."
Indeed, the human person is called to "restore to creation all its original value."(.
Quoted text is from Pope St. John Paul II, - Theology of the Body 48:4, TOB 48:1, and Christifidelis Laici 14.
"'I was afraid, because I am naked, and I hid myself’ seems to express the awareness of being defenseless, and the sense of insecurity about his [bodily] structure...That shame, which shows itself without any doubt in the ‘sexual’ order, reveals a specific difficulty in sensing the human essentiality of one’s own body.”
| St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body, 1.27.4 & 1.28.2 |