Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday in the 5th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Nakedness for Which We Thirst

Readings: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; Mark 7:24-30

Both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame in front of each other…

It's striking to hear how, in our first reading today, despite being given mastery over all of creation, the man still yearns for more, and only finds fulfillment in relationship with another who is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh. The man’s thirst for companionship is quenched only when he meets someone in whose presence he can be naked yet without shame. Commenting on this same passage in his Theology of the Body, the late Pope John Paul II speaks of the original nakedness or original innocence that the first man and woman enjoyed. Much more than telling us about the man and woman not having any clothes to wear, the passage speaks to us of a radical transparency, a profound intimacy of persons, a deeply human communication that they shared with each other.

And, whether we are man or woman, married or single, isn’t this deep interpersonal communion something for which we all thirst as well? Yet doesn’t it sometimes seem as though our search is destined to be foiled at every turn? So many things come in the way – busy schedules, the fear of rejection, the experience of betrayal, the inability to listen… In desperation, our lonely hearts turn to various other avenues, many of which lead us to sabotage our own search for happiness. Unwittingly, when we walk down these alleyways of darkness, we allow unclean spirits to enter into our hearts and our lives. We become addicted to pornography or sex or work. We become unfaithful to our spouses. We sell our souls to the almighty dollar. Whether we are at home or at work, in school or in church, we cause hurt and alienation when we try to mask our loneliness by anxiously asserting ourselves, by seeking to dominate others, or by withdrawing from them. And through it all the burning thirst is never quite quenched. We continue to yearn for that original innocence, that original nakedness that the first man and woman enjoyed without shame…

Even so, all is not lost. For there is at least one other naked person in our readings today. We see, in the gospel story, how the Syrophoenician woman lays bare her soul before Jesus. We see how she shamelessly begs him to free her daughter from the unclean spirit that afflicts her. And Jesus rewards the woman for her openness, for her willingness to stand naked before the Lord. For saying this, you may go home happy. How, we may wonder, did this pagan woman find the strength and courage to do and say what she did? Doesn’t her journey to the Lord begin with the desperate situation in which she finds herself? Isn’t it precisely because she realizes how helpless she is – that there is nothing else she can do, no one else she can turn to who can help her daughter? If the woman is able to taste something of the original innocence that Adam and Eve enjoyed, if she regains the elusive ability to stand naked before another without shame – it is only because she has first come to discover, in a very real way, the radical poverty and powerlessness of the human condition, as well as the great compassion of our God for us in Christ Jesus.
Today, how is the Lord helping us to experience the nakedness for which we thirst?

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this homily that speaks truthfully the reality of human being's need. We need to remain in Him, to receive the graces, to peel off the many layers that we have put on. Like an onion being peeled, tears will flow! Then, can we discover the gem that God has created.