Monday of the ThirtiethWeek in Ordinary Time
The body and the spirit
Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Rom 8,12-17
Towards the end of his earthly life, st. Francesco, looking to his body aged by the years and the mortifications to which it was submitted, said: “Old donkey, how much I have beaten you”. He regarded the body as the mount of the spirit, with which he instead identified himself. The body is important and we must treat it and keep it in good shape, as the grooms do with the horses, otherwise it cannot carry us to the place where we have to go. But the rider is the one who leads the horse and so the spirit must do with the body. However, the today’s passage, taken out from the Letter of Paul to the Romans, is an exhortation to mortify the “works of the body”, which, if it is not broken, tends to go where it likes, as a wild horse. The beatings to which st. Francesco related were necessary to prevent his donkey to go where it wanted. The body, if you leave it free, is likely to go to what Paul calls the works of the flesh, “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outburst of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasion of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like ” (Gal 5,19-21). If we are sons of God and we work to implement his works – Paul says today – we must be guided by the Spirit, we cannot allow to the body to go wherever it wants: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”. It is our spirit which allows to recognize us as children of God and to shout: “Abba! Father! … and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him”. This will happen in heaven, but for the present moment the Spirit gives some wonderful fruits: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5,22).