Sunday, September 01, 2013

Souls, bodies and forgetfulness

Sermon Preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on 14th Sunday after Trinity.


Have you found yourself recently?


In the 1990s and early 2000s

 there was a spate of

high-powered businessmen and women

having some form of breakdown,

 taking time off of work

 and going to hotels, resorts and retreats

to try and “find” themselves.


How on earth do you find yourself? 


Had you any inkling that you were lost in the first place,

 like car keys down the grating in a car park

 or like a biscuit under the fridge?


 Where is this real you that you need to find, anyway?


To answer that, it is said, we have to do some forgetting.


Forget about what you do for a living,

or in your spare time:

 in fact, forget about what you do do.


It doesn’t make you “you”, does it?



 Forget what you own.


Your belongings don’t make you “you”, do they?


Forget your relationships, your family and friends.


Other people don’t make you “you”, do they?


Forget about your own body; it ages and changes

and yet if you lost an arm or a leg,

you’d still be you, wouldn’t you?


 Would you still be you if you looked completely different?


Where is this “real” you?




It’s a very hard question to answer, isn’t it?


If you do not know the answer, then join the club!


We simply cannot put into words who we really are,

though some of us try to do so.


How would you describe yourself?


 Intelligent, caring, forthright, devout, gentle?


Can you sum yourself up in words?

So where do we start finding out who we are?


All things start with God.


God made you you,

and if anyone can understand who you are,

 it’s Him!


“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him

must worship him in spirit and in truth.”


 However, human beings are not just spiritual,

they are physical too.


  We are this wonderful fusion of matter and spirit;

 it’s just very often we forget this.


For most of us in the West,

we tend to forget that we have a spirit

because we are so inundated by a material world.


Things that we can catch hold of

seem to have more relevance in our lives

than the things we cannot catch hold of.


 God Himself is not graspable:

 His light shineth in the darkness

 and the darkness comprehended it not.


This means that God tends to be forgotten far too easily.

Look at the ten lepers: they are healed by Our Lord and immediately nine of them are suddenly so obsessed with their health.


They realise that they are clean and made whole,

 focus entirely on the state of their bodies,

and go on their way to the temple to show the priests

 that they are now able to be part of society.


They forget the Source of that healing.


God Himself is often forgotten

because people fail to remember

that which is truly spiritual.


Our Lord tells us,

“where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.


If we look for material treasure,

 then material treasure will be all that we find.


Matter has a dreadful tendency to break, decay or get lost.


St Thomas Aquinas says

“The things that we love tell us who we are.”


 Our desires do shape us.


If we desire only material things,

then that’s all we’ll ever be,

subject to breakage, decay and loss.

If we desire spiritual things,

 then we will find ourselves more truly.


 We will do more justice to our existence

as both physical and spiritual beings.


Can we go too far the other way?

Can we be too spiritual?




St Paul tells us to walk in the Spirit

and we will not fulfil the lust of the Flesh.


So it seems to St Paul that we cannot be too spiritual.


However, we can become snobbish, too pious, too Holier than Thou,

 or even loathing of our own bodies

and thus of our humanity.


 Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit

and therefore worthy of respect.


You don’t knock a building down

to preserve what it contains

but neither do you let it go to rack and ruin.


St Paul tells us that the body is important.


“Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

To get married and have children is a wonderful thing

and St Paul tells us that should not despise that process

by which babies are made.


But then we should not regard that very process

 as the be-all and end-all of a relationship with someone.


The key thing is balance.


As we exercise the body,

so should we exercise the spirit with

 prayer, Bible study,

and building the Church,

learning to love God above all things

and other people as ourselves.


We need to become more aware of ourselves,

 of our spiritual needs as well as our physical needs.


As long as we see ourselves as a whole,

we can live our lives in God properly.


We need to be conscious

that we see and love ourselves as being

both spiritual and physical,

and balancing our lives so that we can do justice

 to the person that God has created us to be.


Which has had more exercise in your life, your body or your spirit?

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