A NEW BODY
A reflection by Fred Schaeffer, ofs
My sisters and brothers, who wouldn't want a new body? Many of us are not satisfied with what we have. We're too chubby, so we exercise; we're too thin, so we eat; we use powders, lotions and potions to pretty up what we do not approve of. We're all looking for the fountain of youth: body building, weight lifting, aerobics, etc. Some of us are perfectly content with our bodies but the mind isn't so quick anymore. We have so-called 'senior moments,' when we get stuck midsentence, ah...uh...,let's see now, where was I? What was I going to say? Some of my older friends reading this will get a kick out of this, because I used to say "Where was I' about 10 times a day! Of course, sometimes I used to say it on purpose, and at other times I said it to convince myself I was still alive because it was too quiet!
Without God we cannot do much, but with God we are a majority. Take time to play ... the body needs to relax, and so does the mind. Also, take time to read, to read Scripture and to read other literature. The greatest thing on earth is prayer, so take time to pray. Prayer is a conversation with God. Prayer is also offering one's day to God and everything In it. Be conscious of that, during the day, and you will abstain from sin. Take time to laugh ... laughter is the reflection of God's joy in us: it is the mask of the soul. How do we find favor in the eyes of the Lord? What do we need to do to join Jesus for all eternity? It's not as difficult as we think with the little effort here and there.
Jesus told us: [Mat 16:24J "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,. take up his cross, and follow me." For some this share is bigger than for others. As a wise Franciscan once told me, some of us prefer a cross that has training wheels on it, something not so heavy. I'm afraid that such crosses do not exist ... we must all bear our cross without that sort of help. There are ways to make that cross lighter, and for me that is by going to Holy Mass frequently, and by praying a lot. In fact, Jesus left us with a whole score of suggestions to make it easier for us to follow Him. [Luke 6:37] "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven."
Forgive and you will be forgiven, that's always conditional.. .. in the Our Father, Jesus said: Forgive us our sins AS we forgive... right? One is conditional on the other. For many this very thing is their cross -not only do we take the position that we can't forgive until the other guy comes to apologize, but we sulk about it ..; we keep punishing ourselves. That's part of our cross!
As I write these words about forgiving, I am subtly reminded of four people in recent memory who, directly or indirectly, made my life difficult for me. I should forgive them too and I should realize that they, like me, were created by a God who loves us even when no one else will. I must forgive them. If I don't, I bring shame to Jesus. Jesus does not deserve our guilt, our difficulties; it was He who set us free by dying for us on the Cross. He took our cross and made it His Cross. By this unselfish act of total and unconditional love he gave His life for us. Jesus is our brother and our friend. Dying he restored our life.
One time, while I was in Cincinnati, I promised out loud that I would give up certain foods for Lent. My ears are still red, as I remember that this promise lasted barely a day. Still, a little penance is a good way to make your cross lighter. Let's take the rest of the year and do some constructive penance -the type that benefits other people. Go to the "Source" (local soup kitchen) or to Gifford or Fellsmere, and pitch in... Volunteer your time where help is needed. Offer it up for the souls in purgatory or some other intention that is dear to your heart. When you learn to forgive, when you give your heart to others, when you live a life of love for all, then something beautiful happens -your body feels better; it doesn't hurt so much anymore. We begin to feel energetic, perhaps empowered. Our physical and psychological health are one. We are at peace because we have chosen to follow Jesus. The beginning of following Jesus is to be open to him 100%. When you love Jesus 100% you love everyone, even yourself.
St. Paul also talks about the body ... only he is talking about the Body of Christ (which is us). Think about it -how God must love us, His body[ [1 Cor 12 ff] As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
The above Scripture tells us that we are part of the whole ... that we all have to pitch in to contribute. Sure, God can accomplish what He set out to do without us.... but we cannot function without Him! So we depend on God, on His grace! Think of all the riches He has given us. As I am writing this, I am sitting in a room that is not my own (and as such it is God's gift); I am driving a car that does not belong to me (another one of His gifts), and although I am still unemployed, I am fully and firmly aware that God loves me, just as He loves you. I know that God will not let me starve, and for that faith I am grateful.
For people who do not have work, and also for many who are retired and who cannot find useful things to do, there is an unseen enemy and it Is boredom. There is one antidote to boredom: prayer! Set parts of your day aside for prayer. Celebrate Holy Mass in the morning, eat your meals after you have prayed, and eat slowly, savoring each piece of food because there are millions who have nothing to eat. Read a book, read many books!
Fred S. Schaeffer, ofs
Divine Mercy Secular Franciscan Fraternity
Written in 1998, rev. 6/9/2018
A Gift of a New
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
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