“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Today we hear more from St. Paul about encouragement in suffering. He refers to our physical bodies as earthen vessels, pots of clay. Such vessels were used for many reasons in Jesus’ time. Earthen jars were used to carry and store water in the homes of the Middle East. However, sometimes they were used to store precious items such as the manuscripts of the Scriptures such as the documents that have come to be known as the Dead Seas Scrolls.
Our faith teaches us that the earthen vessels that are our bodies hold something just as precious as the water that made living in the desert a possibility and just as precious as the manuscripts that were found in Qumran. They hold our spirits or souls, the precious part of our being that sets us apart from much of our created universe. God has breathed that spirit or soul into us at the moment of our creation. Our bodies were created for the soul, and our soul was created our bodies. The two are mutually dependent upon one another. Our faith teaches us that our bodies and souls are destined to be reunited on the last day when Jesus returns or comes again.
Though our physical bodies are limited and are sometimes the source of pain and suffering, they are graced with a dignity that demands that we care for them the best we can. They are sometimes the vehicle through which God tests us. St. Paul speaks of this in today’s excerpt from the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Our bodies carry the life and the dying of Jesus. The two go hand in hand. When we accept the suffering that sometimes comes because we are limited, mortal beings, when we confront our limitations and our suffering with faith, we form a bond with the crucified Savior who suffered for our sakes. That suffering is, therefore, a source of encouragement for us. We are privileged to suffer just as Jesus suffered; consequently, we are promised that we will one day share in the glory bestowed upon him.
Our Eucharist is focused on the Body of Jesus, the crucified body of Jesus. There is no glory without the cross. There is no salvation without suffering. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we proclaim the death of Jesus and remember our own. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we confess our faith in the resurrection and look forward to our own. We continue to do this until Jesus comes again.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator