We must not underestimate the effect of the sinful human nature we have inherited. The three-fold concupiscence “the desire (Greek epithymia, Latin concupiscentia) of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of life” that “comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2 v 16) is unfortunately a very real part of our nature. Yours. Mine.
We are always quick to see how these are manifested in society or by others – in the context of the human body and sexuality, with the obsession with sexual pleasure and the distortion of the meaning of human sexuality. But what we often fail to realise is the quickness with which the three-fold concupiscence acting in us distorts our own intentions, affections, thoughts about life, relationships and the body.
The good news of the Gospel, and of St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is that we are created good and that through Christ’s victory on the cross there is a super abundance of grace available to us to help us overcome our fallen sinful nature. The Theology of the Body, moreover, helps in re-educating us in what it means to be human, created male and female in the Divine image, the truth and meaning of the body, and the fact that we are created for love.
But the challenge of living the Way illumined by Christ through the scriptures and the teachings of the Church and by John Paul II in the Theology of the Body is a daily task, is life long, never ending this side of heaven. Let me say that again: daily, life long, and never ending.
Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ we can truly know the joy of living and loving in a way that is pure and holy this side of heaven, and experience real victories and an ongoing transformation of our hearts along the way. We can and must be confident that the ultimate victory is assured, and that we can “overcome the world”.
But we will be foolish if we are not realistic. We will be foolish if we are not humble and seek to stand always in the place of the publican who acknowledged his unworthiness and returned home from the temple at rights with God, rather than in the place of the Pharisee who, although he stood inside the temple, was blind to the fact that he was not living the way God intended, not living in the joy and freedom of the mystery of God’s redemptive love.
The Theology of the Body shows us brilliantly how our creation as male and female reveals that we are made for love.
But let us not allow the “desire of the flesh” to cause us to over-sexualise the Theology of the Body. Let us not allow the “desire of the eyes” to lead us out of love of God and of other human persons and into attachment to the things that we see, whether bodily or material. Let us not let the pride of life make us blind to God’s will for us and the ways we fail to love.
Let us be joyful and confident in the truth of our creation and redemption, but at the same time remain prudent and realistic in our journey this side of heaven.