How many of you have ever heard someone in complaining about organized religion say…I am not religious but I am spiritual? The word religion comes from the Latin word “Re-Ligare”. “Ligare” means “to bind” or to “connect”. Adding the “re” before “ligare” causes the word to mean “Re-Bind” or “Re-Connect.” It is where we get the word ligament from. A ligament is a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint. Remove ligaments from one’s body and we are reduced to mounds of jelly who cannot function.
When I was in high school I suffered a disastrous injury…I tore three ligaments in my right knee…needless to say, this required surgery and extensive physical therapy if I hoped to ever walk decently normal again. Thinking about that experience, it helped me to better appreciate the practice of religion.
The ultimate disconnect with God and really all of humanity is sin…sin tears us away from God and injures the most vital relationships we have in life beginning with God. But rather than allowing us to remain injured and disconnected…God applies the ultimate remedy…the greatest and most powerful re-binding agent there is…Jesus Christ.
The Incarnation is pure religion…For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…how…in human form. In the person of Jesus Christ God reconnects Man with God…Jesus became human so that we could once again be like God…but in a stronger more God-like way than we were prior to Adam’s sin, since now…God is truly Man in the person of Christ and He is Risen from the dead.
Therefore, we have been empowered with a love so strong…so binding that not even death can tear us away from our God and those we love…it may like an initial injury do so…
but applying the power of Christ’s resurrection especially by way of the Eucharist… it slowly but surely re-strengthens that bond that is weakened and harmed by sin. Since an injury impacts one’s whole being…body and soul…more than physical therapy is required. Many recovering people for example have to see an occupational therapist.
The word occupational refers to one’s job…and the primary job or vocation that we all have in common is the universal call to holiness. Making every effort to follow Christ’s command: Love one another as I love you. And Christ loves us with both a perfect Divine and Human love…therefore as we are called to the absolute highest level of loving, believing and practicing those beliefs…
we need organized religion like we need occupational therapy…since we live in a fallen world that through the vicious and tireless efforts of the fallen angels tries to weaken our resolve and impair our ability to live and love on this God-like level of existence.
Occupational therapy is about helping people do the day-to-day tasks that "occupy" their time, sustain themselves, and enable them to contribute to the wider community. It is these opportunities to "do", which occupational therapy provides, that prove important and meaningful to the health of people. But as you know we are more than just our body…even more so now by way of the Incarnation…therefore as healthy as we want our body to be do we not want our heart and souls to be extremely healthy as well?
But more than just our individual body is what we share in common with all other people and that is the body of humanity…and nowhere is this truth more dramatically understood and experienced than when referred to as the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
In a very real sense, Christ continues to endure His Passion in His Body the Church. All the recent head-lines involving the sins of the Church should be referred to what Christ endured in Gethsemane and on Calvary. As Scripture says, God made Him to be sin who knew not sin. Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the world of all times and of all peoples.
As we recite in the Lamb of God…Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world have mercy on us…where does He take all those sins…upon Himself…as does His Body the Church…who especially now is enduring a terrible passion. But rather than staying dead on that Cross or buried in that tomb…from that same Body He provided a therapeutic and organized program and cure…the most potent being the Church’s Sacramental Life.
As Saint Paul says…humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. But we receive that word from where…The Church…organized religion, as we receive life and love and support from that organized body we call family.
And to humbly accept that word, we must first and foremost acknowledge our own sins and the harm we cause the body of Christ. When I tore those ligaments, I was reduced to a position of utter dependence…a very humbling and humiliating experience: That injury weakened my entire body and certainly depressed my spirits as well.
After a surgery that laid me up pretty motionless for weeks, I knew that I had to work hard and rely on the support, wisdom and expertise of others to assist in my healing process…especially by way of exercise and good nutrition to rebuild and re-strengthen not just those ligaments, but my whole body and spirit..
That awareness and mentality must be applied by all of us to the body of Christ…the Church…who has sustained some very serious wounds in addition to the day to day wounds of every one’s sinfulness. We must in our own lives help apply healing to the Church and we do so by sustaining a strong and practiced faith. That word that has been planted in us is now the word made flesh…it is one thing to hear that wonderful word but that word is alive…it is Christ…it is God and in living human form for our consumption in the Holy Eucharist.
It is the ultimate multi-vitamin…the body, blood, soul and divinity that as I receive worthily not only helps improve my health but the greater health of the Body of Christ. Healthy food is converted into energy that enables all parts of our body to function properly.
We heard in so many Gospels last month from the very lips of Jesus…whoever eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life…for my body is true food and my blood true drink. I am the Bread of Life. Receiving Christ into my body helps strengthen and energize the entire body of Christ.
Relying then on the religion of the Catholic Church we are able to experience the ultimate re-connection with God…the ultimate being bonded and one with Him…for in Holy Communion as in Holy Matrimony the two become one body…but not only me with the body of Christ but the entire body of humanity.
As we heard from that definition of occupational therapy…that one’s wellness is meant to benefit the wider community and its wider wellness. Which is precisely the point that Saint Paul is making about organized religion today…religion that is pure and undefiled not only is about one’s relationship with God but with orphans and widows…
in other words, people who are experiencing an affliction of any kind. After all who of us in living in such a world are not afflicted in some way by sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, unchastity, blasphemy, envy, greed, arrogance and what not?
And this is what Jesus had in mind when He provides what is perhaps the best definition of the nature of the Church as His Body and our responsibility of remaining connected to it and applying the needed therapy of mercy to it, especially by way of the sacrament of Confession, to help heal it and make it stronger and healthier…especially in light of recent head-lines:
When I was hungry you gave me food…when thirsty…you gave me drink…when sick or in prison you visited me…Amen Amen I say to you…whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me…and in disconnecting one’s self from the Church and really the entire body of humanity that Christ came to redeem He says…whatever you did not do to the least of my brothers and sisters you did not do to me… And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.