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FRP, TOB and Respect Life

Emails, text messages, coffee dates, carpools…our lives are short, but FAST! Many lament about the affects of our fast-paced lifestyles and yet can’t seem to slow down if they wanted to!

But when you get a minute--usually right before you go to bed or maybe as soon as you wake up in the morning–do your thoughts ever bring you to a subject you know not of? In the silence of your heart…What do you wonder about? Are there any “existential questions”–resting just below the surface–that perhaps really only pop their head up in those moments when you’re confronted with silence? 

Questions like: “Is there more to life than what I do on a daily basis?” ” Is there more to love than what I see around me?”  “What the heck am I even here for?” 

If your answer is “Yes!” then could we venture to say: you probably don’t know why? WHY those thoughts are there or what you should do with them? One could argue, if we wanted to, we could banish that silence from our lives completely.  A quick click of the remote or swipe on the smartphone makes it pretty easy. Notice, I’m not saying that’s a good idea (it’s actually a very bad idea), but it is possible and even desirable to some.  But why?

There is deep within each of us the desire to be loved.  Intensely… Immensely… Unconditionally… But then more questions pop up.

What would happen if I actually let myself feel and connect with that desire?  Wouldn’t I just end up being disappointed?  Can anything REAL even come close to satisfying?

I think a good place to start is to think about where that desire comes from. I propose that it is “written in our DNA” and it calls out from within us.  God created you and has inscribed His very own love in your heart.  He loves you with that kind of love and He made you for that kind of love.  You are: Unrepeatable!  Irreplaceable!  Indispensable! 

Do you believe that? When the current world population is estimated at 7.7 billion…and when you imagine the count of all the people who have lived throughout history and will live in the future….how is it possible that you are unrepeatable, irreplaceable, AND indispensable? 

We’re talking about it! October 22nd.

If you attended the “Made for More” event(s) in Louisville this September, the theme of this presentation will feel familiar. We’re giving you MORE about the uniqueness of YOU and every person. WHY it’s so important that we respect ALL life. And HOW we can do more of that in our daily lives–busy or not!

No registration is required. It’s going to be a great night at Holy Family Parish (The Reide Room) and we hope to see you there!

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Theology of the Body + YOU!

Hey everyone, summer is beginning, the days are growing long and the warm nights are perfect for hanging out with friends, discussing and debating the important things of life. You might have heard that the FRP team is excited about a huge event coming to Louisville in September called Made for More!  It will be a multi-media experience, involving all the senses and directing our hearts, souls and minds to reflect on the creation of the world, the Creator and the significance of being created HUMAN.  

In preparation for this event, we are offering a four part series based on St. John Paul’s teachings.  Not often available locally, we want to be sure to invite YOU!  

By learning about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, you will have the answer to the questions:

1)    What does it mean to be human?

2)    How can I live my life in a way that will satisfy the deepest longings of my heart?

Sadly, the world and our culture seem to be unaware of the beauty and goodness that is naturally in created reality!  We no longer allow ourselves to contemplate this mystery and be wowed by the fact that we humans are made in God’s image, having been given divinized bodies.  Instead, we have accepted the lie that our bodies are separate from our spirit, which is another way of saying that all that is spiritually exciting, beautiful and meaningful is totally unrelated to what the physical body finds exciting, beautiful and meaningful.  

This is a grave error and a complete distortion of the magnificent order God created from the beginning of the world!  Subsequently, some of us find ourselves aimlessly wandering from one idea to the next, or one relationship to the next, in search of the truth, in search of a love, goodness, or beauty that satisfies that deepest ache and longing – and we never find it!

This 4-part introductory series is free of charge and includes video presentations each week by Christopher West, followed by discussion and reflection.  Many people leave the series wondering “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”  

Why?  Because no one understood and explained it this way before!  St. John Paul II’s teachings are a gift!  

There is a tidal wave of cultural change sweeping America and the world.  Many feel lost, swept up in fear, seeing only confusion and uncertainty.  Now, with JP II’s help, we dive deeper into the mystery of creation itself.  Using Scripture as his guide, JP II helps us to see the absolute goodness and beauty of God’s creation of man and woman from the very beginning, and our ability to image God in love in a way we have never heard of before!   It is stunning, and it will take your breath away!

I hope you do not delay!  Get out your planners, check your calendars!  Then, please, sign up for Introduction to Theology of the Body to learn and hear for yourself what God had in mind when He created YOU!! 

WHO:  Cathy Blandford and John Sohl have been trained at the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia and will facilitate the discussions.

WHERE:  Holy Family Parish, Poplar Level Road, Reide Room.  (Look for signs)

WHEN:  Tuesdays June 11, 18 and July 2 and 9. Choose afternoon 1:00 – 4:00 PM; or evenings 6:30 – 9:30 PM.

SIGN UP: https://www.familyrenewalproject.com/event/intro-to-theology-of-the-body-a-4-part-series/

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The Sacrament

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church. 

Ephesians 5:31-32

Marriage is obviously the mystery Paul refers to in this verse and proves how intentional God was when he patterned marriage after the relationship between his Son and the Church. 

But how exactly?

We were uniquely + individually created to represent God’s love…through the Spirit within us and the body given to us. This is why our bodies—individually as male and female AND through the union of the two—reflect God. Particularly: (1) His participation in an eternal exchange of love (the spousal analogy) and (2) His bodily sacrifice as a perfect gift of self. When they become “one flesh” man and woman (1) fulfill their purpose and (2) foreshadow the eternal union of Christ and His Church.  

Paul continues…

“[Therefore] be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Ephesians 5:21-25 

In Ephesians, the spousal analogy takes on another dimension: the wife is a symbol of the Church and the husband is a symbol of Christ. We can clearly see that this biblical calling of a wife’s submission to her husband isn’t blind passivity or weakness. God intended it to be unabashed love–much like He offers us. 

And the man, taking on Christ’s persona, should not take his wife’s submission in a self-serving manner. For Christ came not to be served, but to serve—to lay down his life for His Bride. 

This holy, sacrificial love is what John Paul II calls, “The Sacrament.” Marriage, like every other sacrament, has both a divine and human dimension. We’ll look at the divine dimension now. The Sacrament of Marriage, right from the beginning, “prepared the way for God’s wedding himself to US in ‘one flesh’.” In the beginning, God’s mystery became visible through mans union with woman. At the end of time—at the eternal “Supper of the Lamb”— the mystery becomes visible through Christ’s union with the Church. 

These two signs form one great sacrament (The Sacrament). The great mystery comes full circle…in that we see the purpose of our creation. Not just as man and woman, but in the relationship between God + mankind and it’s being brought to fulfillment through Christ.

Christopher West poses a great question: If the union of spouses in “one flesh” truly reveals Christ love for the church, why, then, are we so prone to think of sexual union as something unholy and defiling? How can we reclaim a true sense of the holiness of sexual union in God’s plan? 

Let us know below! We’d love to hear your thoughts! 

As always, thanks for reading! 

The FRP Team

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What happens to your body…

If you type the words “what happens to your” in the Google search bar, the second result is “…to your body when you die.” Seems to be a pretty intriguing question to most people!

1 Corinthians 15:44 says: 

They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

After all God has to say about the body’s significance, did you think he’d leave it out after death? 

According to that verse in 1 Corinthians, our “heavenly” bodies will be significantly different from our earthly bodies.

How? 

“The powers of the spirit (the Holy Spirit—spiritual and divine) will permeate the energies of the body” (TOB 67:1).

Why?

The spiritualization and the divinization of our body is how we will participate in the “divine communion” God intended for us. This is promised to us from the beginning when we—as man and woman—are created in God’s image. We image God’s eternal exchange of love on earth as He does in Heaven: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

This is the communion God foreshadows for us in our earthly marriages (the union of one flesh). However, the “union of the sexes” as we know it now will give way to an infinitely greater union: the union of Christ and the Church.  

Because of this, we must remember our earthly marriages are…as Christopher West puts it…a glimmer…or an icon…of something infinitely greater. 

That is what we can expect after the resurrection of our earthly body. That is why we exist! 

As Pope John Paul II so eloquently put it, “All people—regardless of their vocation—are called to prepare and perfect themselves for eternal union with God.” 

What does eternal union with God look like? 

Perfect love. 

An end to all suffering. 

Ecstatic, never-ending happiness. 

Perfect justice. 

Healing of all wounds. 

Ending of all sadness and despair. 

What great hope we have in these things! So prepare yourself emphatically. Pray for these things unceasingly. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If you’d like to learn more about what God has to say regarding the rising/resurrection of our bodies, keep reading! 

(Continued: 1 Corinthians 15:45-57)

“The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thanks for reading! 

The FRP Team 

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Now Serving…

We’ve learned that eros—the longing—inside of us for Love was an intended part of our makeup. God created us in His image and, because of His communion of love in accordance with the Trinity, we are made for Love.

At the same time, he continuously warns us to guard our hearts from the perversion of Love:  lurking lust and the sin of adultery. 

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

Sounds pretty clear cut, right? But don’t misunderstand His point! Although we must guard our hearts from lust, Christ encourages us NOT to suppress our desires for Love…instead, he asks that we purify our hearts towards a holy desire.

The process of purification is not a strict set of standards. Christ does not want to impose laws on us… he wants to transform our hearts to “free us from the law” (Galations 5:18) and help our “eros” reach it’s true height, according to the Creator’s original plan.

(Theology of the Body is not only an invitation, but a “road map” to understanding what this means for each of us.)

As we’ve learned, our sexuality is a major part of God’s plan for humanity. As followers of Christ, we must mature and learn to distinguish between (1) what composes the riches of sexuality/sexual attraction and (2) what compels lust. This requires what God continuously calls us to perfect: our self control. 

To grow in purity, we must train our hearts and minds to control our “passions.” It’s an act of the will. 

Christopher West uses the example of exercising a muscle. The more one sacrifices bad habits and devotes themselves to training, the stronger that muscle becomes. 

However, he rightly notes that only half the “training” comes from our own will. We MUST surrender our struggles to grace and let Christ give our desires a new, pure form. Only He can give us the power to love in God’s image.

It is NOT an easy process!

JPII writes, “Lust is not always plain and obvious; sometimes it’s concealed, so that it passes itself off as ‘love’… Does this mean we should distrust the human heart? No! We must remain in control of it.”

Sometimes lust looks a lot like love. Sometimes, it looks a lot like “fast food.” As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Christians often feel our only two options are fast food or “starvation.”

From “A Four Letter Word for Love:”

“Erotic love (as intended), like much in our culture today, has been completely defiled. And like many spiritual things, its original intention isn’t properly understood, resulting in rejection and a sense of disgrace… leading its new meaning to be rejected and disgraced by the very people God created it for: the Church. This is a mindset we must reverse.

In the confusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads: either (1) by a pure act of the will we become stoic by repressing our desires, condemning them as “bad” or unholy…OR… (2) once we realize that “starving ourselves” of our deepest desire is not possible, we give up the fight by “consuming” immediate gratification — in whatever form it takes. —> Can also be known as “fast food” love.  

Enter: Jesus. 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Matthew 16:24

A process like TAKING UP OUR CROSS (in this case, controlling our *given* desires) is not.going.to.be.easy. 

Christopher West describes it as “emotionally and physically wrenching at times.” 

Dying to lust—letting the Lord crucify impurity—is a birth of authentic love and a life as God intended it. 

However! We know that God has prepared a banquet (an everlasting wedding feast, actually—see Revelation 19:7) for those who follow Him. So there’s no such thing as “starving ourselves” and fast food can be a thing of the past! 

We pray that you’ll find peace and strength if you surrender your burdens to the Lord today. We can testify that you’ll actually lose nothing and gain everything (even though it feels like losing a lot of the time!). 

Want more Theology of the Body? 

We’re announcing a new introductory series in JUNE! Stay tuned for more information next week. 

Thank you for reading! 

The FRP Team

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An Intimate Invitation

Did you look it up?

Hosea 2:19 from last week…did you read it?

Our topic this week centers around this important verse! Here it is again:

“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19

Scripture uses many images to describe God’s love/desire for us, but the “spousal analogy” is arguably the most pronounced…and maybe even most confusing one!

Drawing from the conclusions of theologians before him, Christopher West takes that analogy a step farther and makes a pretty profound statement: God wants to marry us.

Crazy, right? And these claims come from the Bible! That’s not too hard to believe though…after all, the Bible begins and ends with marriages: Adam to Eve and Christ to the Church. Patterned throughout the Bible–from bookend to bookend–you see numerous examples of God making His desires clear for us (members of His Church). Here are a few:

Song of Songs 4:9 (You saw that coming!)

“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Isaiah 62:5

“For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your Maker marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Ephesians 5:21-32

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church.”

Revelation 19:7

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”

The outline these passages provide reveals an eternal plan that becomes obvious when we see the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. God himself became flesh…not just to forgive our sins (as if that wasn’t enough!), but to become “one flesh” with US, so that we could share in His eternal exchange of love.

An earthly “spousal relationship” is given to us by God to foreshadow the relationship He desires to have with each of us…for eternity!  Union with God is the ultimate relationship…the ultimate GOAL; the union of man and woman in marriage reflects and prepares us for that reality.

This is definitely a unique way of looking at our relationship with God. John Paul II recognized that “the analogy of human spousal love cannot offer an adequate and complete understanding of [the divine mystery] (emphasis mine).” This analogy simply allows us a unique glimpse into this incredibly divine mystery.

What do YOU think of spending an eternity in perfect love?  And if you pursued that now…what would it look like?

In the meantime, stay tuned for next week’s post about how/why God created men and women.

Thanks for reading!

The FRP Team

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A Four Letter Word for Love

We’re a sign of a divine mystery. But what does that mean?

It is the mystery of Trinitarian Life and Love – of God’s eternal Communion. “God Himself is an eternal exchange of love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange (CCC221).”

This concept will only temporarily be a mystery to us. God desires we share in this mystery–this exchange of love–with Him forever.

We know by this point that we are created by Love for love (in God’s image), but what might strike you is the TYPE of love God intended for us.

By nature we were created with a deep desire to draw near to God. “Eros” is the desire in us that seeks God. If you follow the Greek word out a little more, you’ll no doubt find that “Eros” is the origin of the word “erotic.”

We were created for erotic love.

theology of the body love

Erotic love (as intended), like much in our culture today, has been completely defiled. And like many spiritual things, its original intention isn’t properly understood, resulting in rejection and a sense of disgrace… leading its new meaning to be rejected and disgraced by the very people God created it for: the Church. This is a mindset we must reverse.

In the confusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads: either (1) by a pure act of the will we become stoic by repressing our desires, condemning them as “bad” or unholy…OR… (2) once we realize that “starving ourselves” of our deepest desire is not possible, we give up the fight by “consuming” immediate gratification — in whatever form it takes.

We can’t deny our nature–the way God created us in HIS image–by denying these desires. But neither of the above options is the “abundant life” Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

Thankfully, both Scripture and the Church offer direction along life’s crossroads!

“The moment the Word became flesh, he eliminated the unbridgeable distance between the finite and infinite…in order to draw us to the heights of satisfaction through communion with His divine being (Benedict XVI, Aug 10, 2012).

Our erotic desire–the deep longing for being taken outside of yourself, completely encompassed by Love–is NOT unattainable.

It becomes clear through Scriptures like Hosea 2:19 that God destined us to share in the exchange of this kind of love. (I challenge you to look it up!)

THIS is what makes the Gospel “good news:” there is a Love, freely offered to us, that quenches our deepest longing. Honestly, accepting and submitting to the Love of God is what we were actually created for.  We were Made for More…

Throughout this next week, we encourage you to begin looking for obvious ways that you find yourself desiring God. In what areas of your life do you see yourself longing for Love that only He can provide?

Feel free to comment below or message us about what you realize! We’d love to hear from you!

As always, thank you for reading!

The FRP Team

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[Repost] The Heart of the Gospel: A Divine Marriage Proposal

Blog (re)posted with permission by author Claire Hendee, originally published 10/25/16 on tobinstitute.org.

The Heart of the Gospel: A Divine Marriage Proposal

At the beginning of July, having just finished five weeks of evangelization training as a FOCUS missionary, I was given the opportunity to take the “Head and Heart Immersion” Theology of the Body course in Ave Maria, Florida. My previous experience with TOB had been minimal — a few classes in high school — but I believed that a better understanding of TOB would help with leading Bible studies and mentoring women on campus, not to mention it would more thoroughly prepare me for my vocation. What I did not expect was the impact it would have on one of our most basic evangelization strategies: sharing the gospel.

As a missionary, I am asked to share the gospel all the time. Whether it’s with a diagram, a little book, my testimony or a passage from Scripture, there are countless ways to unfold the good news of the Incarnation and to give another person the opportunity to accept and choose the love of Jesus Christ, maybe for the first time.

The gospel itself has five basic points:

  1. We were created for relationship with and adoption by God the Father;
  2. We fell in sin and broke this relationship;
  3. God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins and restore this relationship;
  4. We now have the choice to, through the Holy Spirit, accept this free gift or reject it;
  5. And we do so through active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

Often when this message is shared, the emphasis can unfortunately rest on our sinfulness: We did not deserve Jesus’s death for us, but He chose to do it anyways. And in my experience, the well-intentioned proclamation of this good news ends up inducing feelings of guilt and shame more than anything else: “Do you not realize what Jesus did for you? How could you say no to that?!

But that’s not the heart of the gospel.

As I encountered the Theology of the Body, the gospel was revealed in a whole new light. I began to understand that, in the beginning, the Trinity — an eternal exchange of love — made man to share in that love. Earthly marriage, the love of a father and mother spilling into the new life of a child, is meant to reflect the love of the Trinity and constantly point us back to the Love for which we were created. Celibacy reminds us that, ultimately, sex is not the end but a foreshadowing of the union we are to have with Christ for eternity.

Our purpose and destiny: eternal union with Christ in Heaven.

Jesus doesn’t want to guilt us into choosing Him. He doesn’t want to merely “be in relationship” with us — he wants to marry us (in a supernatural kind of way). He wants to have a union with us even deeper than that of husband and wife…and He gives us a taste of this in the Eucharist as He, the Bridegroom, lays down His life for the Bride, the Church, on what St. Augustine calls the “marriage bed of the Cross” (Sermon Suppositus, 120:3).

WHAT? Could it be more beautiful than that?

But what struck me most is that it’s not about our sinfulness. Jesus did not become man just to conquer sin: No, there was a reason He needed to conquer sin. Sin was the very thing that was keeping this eternal marriage from being realized. So desperately did Jesus want to marry us and spend eternity with us that He was willing to do ANYTHING — whatever it took, even laying down His life — to redeem our brokenness and turn it into an opportunity for life.

For me, sharing the gospel with a woman in my Bible study or a student I meet on campus will never be the same. The heart of the gospel is that our God wants to marry us, and He was and is willing to do whatever it takes to give us the chance to accept this proposal. Though human marriage is only an icon of this eternal marriage for which we are destined, we can begin to grasp the great significance and beauty of eternal marriage through the lens of earthly marriage. At the end of the day, it’s not about our sin; it’s about the eternal marriage we were made for in the beginning.

Of course we need to take sin seriously and be aware of the impact of our choices on our souls. But we need not let shame be the driving force in our spiritual lives. If we understand that sin is what is getting in the way of this eternal marriage, we can more readily reject the false proposals from the prince of darkness and accept the loving marriage proposal of the eternal Bridegroom. And not only that, but we’ll be better equipped to share the truth of God’s beautiful love for us with others and give them the opportunity to choose it, too.

Now, when I share the gospel on campus, I realize that I’m inviting people into the marriage they were made for — the marriage for which their hearts are so desperately longing and aching. Sharing this truth with others isn’t just for FOCUS missionaries. It’s for all of us.

About the Author: A native of Knoxville, TN, Claire is a theology teacher at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown and a former missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). She currently lives in Elizabethtown, KY and is awaiting marriage in December to her fiancé, Andrew Collins. Claire loves coffee shops, good music, and Heart of the World by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.